Category Archives: Budget

Drifting Towards two Volcanoes and a Sunset in Riobamba

 After spending almost two hours drifting in and around Riobamba’s center looking for a cheap hotel, I finally came across the Hotel Glamour.  It was the sixth place I’d checked out and the first that was equipped with wifi in the rooms.

Of the two rooms that were left, I chose the huge one that had a work table.  The other room on offer was only $10 but it didn’t have a window.  I always try my best to avoid musty, windowless rooms.  The big one was $15.  The man kindly gave it to me for $13 after I asked for that price.   I thought: It’s more than I want to pay.  But, the room is great and I’m really tired of looking at hotel rooms.  I have a vista of a snowcapped volcano to find before sunset and I’ve already used up way too much time.

Termas El Salado in Baños

 Minutes before arrival at the volcanically heated hot springs of Termas El Salado, I was able to see the smoking Volcán Tungurahua.  I thought: I don’t remember ever seeing an active volcano in front of my eyes.  What a pleasant surprise.  I was glad that I don’t take taxis unless I have to, as the walk rewarded me with a striking view.

Sharing the sidewalks and streets with school kids reminded me of being on my way to school on a brisk, autumn, New England morning.

Hot Stone Volcanic Massage

When I think of the little town of Baños, the first thing that comes to mind is  therapeutic tourism. Besides allowing people to easily bathe in thermal springs, the town is home to well over a dozen massage parlors.

Considering I’d been walking past these massage service stores for a week, I figured that it was time to take advantage of the option that was staring me down.

Bathing in Baños

After walking along a refreshingly misty and windy Baños street, I came to the Termas de la Virgen, one of a few thermal, public baths heated by Volcán Tungurahua.

Termas de la Virgen sits just beside -practically below- the Caballera de la Virgen waterfall.

After paying the $2 entrance fee I went in and glanced around in awe, finding five pools. They vary in water shade, size, and most importantly, temperature.

I was instructed to take a container, go to a changing room, put on swim trunks and place everything else in the basket.

After handing my plastic crate over I was given a band to put around my wrist.  There was a small wooden piece on it that showed the number of my container.  Two words came to mind while placing the band around my wrist: Über efficient.

3 Cheap Vegetarian Options in La Mariscal

I’m not going to lie.  I’m not a full-fledged vegetarian.  That means that when there’s no other option, I suck it up and usually end up settling for chicken and or egg.  I even eat beef or pork when it’s served to me in someone’s home.  Recently in Colombia I had liver on arepas or corn tortillas while at a home in Virjinia.

As time goes on, I continue to like the idea of vegetarianism more and more.    Even though I’m not a fan of labels, for the moment, I’ll loosely consider myself a virtual vegetarian.

The bottom line is that my goal going forward is to focus mostly on a high fruit, high veggie diet.

Ipiales to Tulcán: A Fast and Easy Border Crossing

The hotel worker told me to walk to the park in order to get a better price on a taxi.  He told me not to pay more than 2,000 COP or $1.22.

While spontaneously getting my shoes shined for $1,000 COP or $.55 in the plaza, it started to pour.

In the cold mountain rain the lowest the taxi man would go is 5,000 pesos or $2.70.  As my bags would have been drenched had I stood out there much longer, it was a no-brainer to suck up the $1.48 extra.  I thought: If I were this man, I probably would have noticed that there were no other taxis, and that I had no rain covering on my packs.  I might have upped the price to 7,000.

Popayán to San Agustín and 5 Pit Stops

The woman told me that the journey would take between four and six hours depending on the weather.  She also said that we’d be stopping for lunch.  I expected one stop.

From Popayán, the 10:30 am bus bound for San Agustín didn’t actually leave until 11:30 am.  I never figured out why we left an hour late, nor did I try to find out.

Hiking in Manizales: A Photo Essay

 A few posts ago, I mentioned that while in the hilliest city in Colombia, I got to go on a rather scenic hike that wouldn’t have been  possible to figure out on my own.

At the time, I felt that I’d paid my local guide a bit too much.  However, as I was just browsing through photos from that hike, I came across some that made me realize that the 30,000 COP or $16.85 for the five and a half hour guided hike was far from the worst deal on earth.

Valle de Cocora

 While sleeping in a hostel dorm room for my first five nights in Salento, I noticed a trend of backpackers coming for one or two nights.  They make it to Cocora for a hike, and then they’re on their way out to see another site at another Colombian destination.  It took me over a week in these idyllic surroundings before I finally got a jeep out to this natural wax-palmed wonderland.

Just a short time after I entered the premises of the national park I was reminded of something.  Not far from where the trail started, memory of footage from the film The Lord of the Rings popped into my mind.

I’ve been told by travelers that New Zealand has the most beautiful terrain on earth.  I’ve recently realized that the topography and flora of the Andes must rival that of New Zealand where the film was set, in a far-away land at the other end of the planet, where I’ve never drifted down to.

Hiking in an Andean Paradise

While on one of the three microbuses I took to get to the cute little town of Salento from Manizales, I thought about engaging in some hiking.  I’d heard that it was a major attraction there.  I pondered: I’m in the Andes, there has to be endless trails that are incredibly worthy of hiking.  I’d really like to get in touch with more nature, with my diverse earth.

What I didn’t know is that I’d end up going on four unique hikes in just over a week’s time.

After arriving in Salento and being brought to my hostel, I decided to take a stroll into the tranquil and idyllic Salento night.

Within minutes I found myself sipping straight rum outside of a small bar. I started talking to a few people that were already hanging out and shooting the fresh mountain breeze.