Category Archives: Nature
Last year at this time I was planted in the laid-back little Andean town of Baños, Ecuador. It’s the type of place you can easily get stuck in for a while, especially if you’re feeling weary of traveling.
When a coworker asked if I wanted to take a cruise out of the city and into the desert, my answer was immediate and second nature. I’d been thinking about getting out of the city limits that I’d confined myself to for weeks.
I had no idea what we were going to do there. I was told that there would be a common interest group of ex pats meeting. That was it.
The goal was to be out at the crack of dawn, when the desert air is at its finest. Due to evening food and internet complications, a whole other story, I got to sleep a bit later than planned. My body clock finally forced my eyes open just after the sun began its ascent.
I was out the door at 6:25 and on the dune at 6:40.
While drifting towards two volcanoes and a sunset, I was interrupted by a short woman who was standing under a tree’s branches that were hanging above the sidewalk. She asked if I would please pull some leaves down from the tree above.
I reached up and pulled down a branch. She grabbed a bunch of leaves and thanked me five or six times. I thought: It was really nothing, and now I’m curious as to what these leaves are used for.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.