Haquillas, Ecuador to Tumbes, Perú: A Confusing Crossing

I was under the asinine assumption that the border crossing from Huaquillas to Tumbes would be ridiculously smooth like the one from Colombia into Ecuador that I’d crossed five weeks prior.  That super easy crossing conditioned me to think that my next land pass over would be equally as easy.  Oh how wrong I was.

After a six-hour bus ride from the Andean city of Loja to the lowlands of coastal Huaquillas, I retrieved my red backpack from the bus’ conductor and asked him where the border was.  He pointed in one direction and told me to walk straight. After slightly less than a crowded kilometer away, I came to what appeared to be a border crossing between the two countries.

A Short Drifting Diversion in Riobamba

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.

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.

A Tentative Travel Plan

I’m sitting in the center seat on the back of a bus from San Agustín to Popayán.  The good thing is that I have a little bit of legroom behind the teenage girl who’s sitting on the aisle floor in front of me.

The transport setup lacks assigned seating.  I’m perched too high to get more than a narrow glimpse of the visually therapeutic nature outside.  I think:  At least I have leg room so this isn’t one of the most uncomfortable bus rides I’ve had to endure.

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.