Riding in a speeding bus swinging around “S” curves for hours, climbing through 14,000 feet altitude equates to extreme nausea, at least for me.
Meanwhile, Marilynn marvels at the high-altitude scenery, snaps photos, and chats with others as if at a party.
The reality of travel…, when the bus stops at Laguna Quilotoa along the way, I almost make it to the lodge/restaurant entrance door where I toss breakfast and more. As I yak, free roaming dogs lick it up, not helping matters in my queasy stomach. Pretty gross. Not the type of first impression I want to make. The dogs love me, though, as they sit in anticipation of the next hurl.
Eventually, friendly folks take me inside. “It happens all the time,” they repeat. “Combination of curves and altitude.” They serve me coca tea and stuff my cheeks with coca leaves. It works.
Thought that I was immune to altitude sickness since we spent a lot of time hiking in high altitude back in Otavalo. Nah, couldn’t even walk to the lake. Luckily, Marilynn did, and she’s the photographer. I’m just a lowly writer.
Enter the town of Banos, which earns its name from a series of public thermal baths. Marilynn and I relax our bodies with soaks in different pools of mineral-rich water, each with varying degrees of temperature. I’m healed. Thank you, Mother Nature.
This city of “outdoor playground” offers exhilarating walks through thunderous waterfalls of the Rio Pastaza, which flows into the Amazon River. Volcan Chimborazo, which sits nearby, is the highest peak in Ecuador and the point on land that is furthest away from the center of the Earth. Arguably, it’s the point on earth closest to the sun.
Zip-line activities will fly you over the forest canopy to waterfalls if you wish.
We find the local market and dine on fritada and llapingachos, fried chunks of pork and potato and cheese pancakes with an egg. Don’t even talk about cholesterol.
We could have spent a few more nights in Banos, but hopped on a night bus to make our way to Cuenca (via Guayaquil).
This time, I double up on Dramamine, and sleep like a baby on Quaaludes.
Many expats live in “Gringolandia” compound communities in Cuenca. It’s relatively safe, has moderate temperatures, and much like Quito, is full of Spanish/Indigenous history.
Despite this town being a tourist favorite, it’s our least favorite stop. Perhaps after a while, cities are, well, cities. Maybe we just don’t get it. However, it makes for a convenient place to rejuvenate, relax and take care of business including fresh laundry.
We need more. Let’s go on another twisty, high altitude bus ride to the Ingapirca ruins. More cups of coca tea please (didn’t need it at sea level on the coast in Canoa).
The ruins tell a story of how the Inca and Canari Indigenous peoples lived in harmony, despite one group’s religious belief of worshiping the sun, and the others’ worshiping the moon.
The Canari people still use the ruins for significant rituals. The corn and cheese we devour at lunch here could have been our best meal in the Cuenca area.
Corn in Ecuador has remained the same for 400 years, free of genetic altering, etc., and tastes exceptionally mild. Along with corn, many of the families up here raise 150 to 200 guinea pigs for consumption, as well as a source of income at the markets.
After a month of stumbling around, it’s time to move on. “Hasta Luego” to the fascinating, friendly country of Ecuador. Stay tuned for life in Uruguay.
Thank you, Abundant Universe.