After breakfast, we pull south from “famous Machachi” on to the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Don’t expect fumaroles and heavy boulders. These volcanoes are heavily-terrased, verdant peaks lost in the drifting mist. Nonetheless, the road is good and the scenery spectacular.
We kick about two nondescript but “real” Ecuadorian towns: Latacunga (rather dirty sounding) and Ambato. Latacunga features an empty archaeological museum and a sad town square festooned with jumbled Christmas decorations, including an R2D2. We eat a fancy salmon lunch in the Roka Hotel of livelier and wealthier Ambato. We poke into a church, wander the sunny streets, and hop back into the wee car to continue on to Banõs.
The Andean adventure-sports destination, Banõs offers bungee jumping, waterfall climbing and horseback riding. We opt instead for an adventurous afternoon pilsner on the porch of our eco-lodge, Casa Verde, located by the river on the outskirts of town. Casa Verde requests shoes off and obsesses over trash and its unmanageable disposal. Nonetheless, the eco-lodge does have local weavings, a great granola breakfast, and stunning views.
We heave out the hotel door in late afternoon to explore the town. First, we walk across two narrow river bridges to spot several cascades. Then, we drive up to a local public hot springs where we exchange our clothes for swimming suits and shower caps to soak at sunset in rust-colored baths of different temperatures. There are only 6 bathers here. We happily drip dry.
It is dark. We park* in central Banõs and get out on foot to search for food and drink. We pull up stools at the Stray Dog brew pub, an ex-pat classic, complete with Chicago slam-poet owner, a travelling band from Alaska named Wasted Hop with cute documentarian named Sam, and a cast of Australians.
After the Stray Dog, we wander for dinner. There are lots and lots of pizza places (Ecuadorian pizza?) but none of them have diners inside. Over Cuba Libres, Lee and I pick at sea bass and a sandwich on the porch of a random restaurant. I have eaten so much!
*We cannot find the car. Panic ensues. We retrace our steps. We cannot find the car! More panic. It has been stolen. Of course. We find the car, just one street further than we expected. I fall asleep quickly.