Sunday, November 25, 2012

4 DAYS IN A RENTAL CAR ~ DAY 4

Riobamba... nice town. Not as pretty as Cuenca, but it has a nice main drag that has some really nice stores in it..and restaurants.

After we woke up we all met up fo breakfast at a local place we had spotted the nite before. They advertized waffles, pancakes and crepes. We the waffles were much larger in the photo than the 4 inch across ones that were served. The bacon that we paid extra for was maybe one inch across.. Randy was pleased with his microscopic sausage. We all got a kick out of our breakfast as all of our waffles, pancakes and crepes were served with chocolate sauce on it as well.. sigh.. it was tough but we managed to eat our "dessert" for breakfast.

Again we fired up the trusty Garmin and we were off to find our way out of town.. we did it! First try. Well, kind of. The road was being worked on so we were detoured.. The Garmin lady was not pleased.. "In 50 meters make a U turn".. oh shut up... We were all backed up on a dirt road with cars trying to get up a hill that was all muddy.. Mug bogs anyone? We decided that a local in front of us had the right idea as he took a sharp right and headed off in another direction. We followed and found our way around the steep muddy hill , boucing and bumping along the dirt road out to the main paved (thank goodness) road.

Our 4th day was pretty smooth, considering we hit MAJOR fog. So bad that we were creeping along at maybe 15 km. Then we hit some heavy rain, and one of the areas that we came to was awash in mud from the neighborhood next to the highway.. Randy had to come to a stop and slowly cross through the mud river. Once again... I was so taken over by what was happening I forgot to whip out the camera and take a picture.
Flooded road in a town we passed through..

We found a nice restaurant on our way back and had a lunch. (thought not as nice as the one in Puyo). The scenery was nice, the bath room was horrible.. Remember ALWAYS carry kleenex in Ecuador.



We had planned on staying the nite in Paute, as the rental car did not have to be back until noon on Friday.. but we were so tired. We drove staight through to Paute, dropped off one friend, then another in Cuenca and raced home. Off went our shoes. On when the REAL comfy clothes and back into our comfy chairs... ahhh. I love going on a vacation; cause then home feels twice as nice when you return.



Monday, November 19, 2012

4 DAYS IN A RENTAL CAR ~ DAY 3

GOOD MORNING BANOS!

We had a great sleep and a nice leisurely hang out while we waited for one of our group to get back from their mornging STEAMBATH in a box! Yep. They got those in Banos too.

We had decided on a restaurnt that had an attached hostal. It looked like it was just a few blocks from our location so we headed off on foot to find it. Once we arrived (with some directions from a local) we settled down to a huge breakfast of fruit, bread, juice, tea/coffee and omeltes, pancakes.  It was delicious and decadent!

Of course we needed to walk a bit more to get our food to settle before we clambered back into the car. On our route we found a beautiful Peacock sitting in a bush giving us the evil eye.
Then we came across a little weaving shop. Randy kept going, but I stopped with my friend..we were enchanted. The weaver (Carmela) had done all the rugs, wall hangings and table runners herself. Her loom was very old and she had a weaving on the loom. They were all wool and she used all natural dyes... well I was sunk..

Randy showed back up and I did my best to convince him that we needed a wall hanging... I am a real good convincer..

Carmela and my cool wall hanging!
Now we were off to Puyo. I have to say this is the prettiest drive. The land changes from very tropical to sandy and hot, then back to tropical. It was fabulous. There are alot of gondola type businesses as well as ziplining.. called Canopy. You are zooming out over a very wide and deep canyon.. empty your bladder before beginning the trip. We all passed on this experience.
One of 3 tunnels we passed through to get to Puyo
A real wide area of the river
Tried to get a picture of the huge ferns.. can you see that one compared to the truck?
We stopped in a little town of Mera and walked around. It was HOT! There was a sad shut down Gondola ride across from the main square, we all walked over and looked across the river as we tried to imagine having the nerve to actually ride in one.

We went through a town called Shell, named after the Oil company that was based there. It had some nice playground equipment and something like Disney Characters (picture was too blurred). It just seemed so out of place. The Oil company is now gone. The town is still there.

Once we got to Puyo, we were off to find the recommended Balsa store. Of course we forgot our directions that our friend Chuck had given us, so after getting directions from the Itur office and several folks on the sidewalk, I gave up and called Chuck. We all were grateful to pile back into the car with the air conditioning. Hot and Humid, we were not very appreciative of.

We found the Casa de Balsa. Its right on the main road as you come into Puyo, 3 story bldg, big sign.. sigh... we had driven right past it. We all supported the Balsa industry and piled back into the car to head back to Banos.
Our guy, in his new home..

After a quick lunch at a local almuerzo restaurant (oh yum it was great, big and $2) We hit a huge storm. Thunder lighting right over head and RAIN!  Gully Washer rain! We had to pull off the road cause we could not see..

Yeah, time to take a breather...
We arrived back in Banos and decided that a bathroom stop and Ice Cream were required to continue on to Riobamba for another overnite stay.

I must say here that we all wanted to find the SHORTEST route to Riobamba.. That did not happen.. we drove up and down the road, asking folks where the shortcut was.. police, GPS and locals... nada.. we ended up going up and down one long stretch of road 3 times before Randy decided he was taking over and making the decision to go to Amabato (off the map) then Riobamba.. no shortcut in the dark for us.

We ended day 3 about 7 pm in Riobamba, tired, and wore out, back at the Shalom hotel. Thank Goodness they had a rooms for the 4 of us. We crossed the road wolfed down a half decent burger, watched Ecuador beat Barcelona in Soccer and then went back to our rooms to relax... it had been one hell of a day!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

4 DAYS IN A RENTAL CAR ~ DAY 2

We had made it to Riobamba, found a great comfy hotel within our budgets, and woken up to a beautiful day. The only thing we could think of was breakfast!

Luckily the nite before we had scouted our neighborhood and saw a place that looked like a good spot. They were full of the locals and they served breakfast.

I decided since I was on vacation I should have a Amaretto Cappaccino
With our stomachs full and our spirits high we were off to find Guano. This town is known for its Rug makers. Old style looms that we had been told go up 3 stories..

Our handy GPS and a few roadsigns later we were off the beaten track and into some gorgeous farm country. We found Guano, but we were so early that most of the stores were not even open yet. We meandered around and found the central plaza for the requsite photo op.

We never did find the 3 story rug maker, and to be honest we couldnt buy one anyway. I did take a video of a lady making a rug.
video
Randy bought that brown hat he is wearing. All handmade wool.. $13. He did not bargain. We also saw a rug we liked that was more of a toursity rug, but we bargained and got that one too. $30.

As we left Guano we all had varying ideas of how to find the road we came in  on... and the GPS didn't agree with anyone... so we wandered around and around and finally found a road out of town. We were concerned as these roads were not paved, or very primitive, and again the locals gave us looks like we were definately on the road less traveled. We continued on and eventually found our way back to the main highway and into all the little towns preceding Banos.

Just a little hillside farming!
We arrived in Banos much to our relief a little after 1. Checked into Hostal Timaru. The rate was $10 a day, the nicest thing was the flowers and turtle in the courtyard.

We were off to find lunch and see a bit of the town. We had a nice Pizza at Pappardelles. YUM, and a liter of wine.. Oh my.. thank goodness there were four of us. Here are some pictures of the town.
Cool painting on the wall of a local bar.
1990 Piaggio Vespa and a old Ecuadorian hippe.
One of the vehicles you can rent to tour around town

We wandered around the rest of the afternoon, then went back and rested until dinner. We went to a recommended restaurant the Swiss Chalet for dinner. We were all still pretty full from the wonderful pizza so we all had appetizers. After dinner we meandered back to our room and crashed. Another big day ahead. We were going to go to Puyo... the gate way to the Amazon.

Friday, November 16, 2012

4 DAYS IN A RENTAL CAR, DAY 1

After living here in Cuenca for almost 2 1/2 years we decided we needed to take a car trip.

We found 2 other folks who wanted to take the dare and just head out on the road to Banos Ambato, about a 7 hr drive away. Well, that is if you dont get sidetracked. We planned to drive from Cuenca to Riobamba on the first day.

Just a word here about the rental car and our route. It was a newer, manual, Grand Vitara. It was very clean and ran great, unfortunately it was  2 cylinder motor.

We were going over the Andes. This translates to alot of long steep climbs up... then down. The ups we were mostly down into 2nd gear going maybe 20 km an hour. The road we took is a wonderful road, but only two lanes with lots of curves, and ups and downs. To add to the mix there is rain, fog, cows, speed bumps (honest!), people walking on the side of the road, very very slow moving trucks and people passing on blind curves.



We made it to Alausi and drove down into the town to walk around. We decided that we did not want to constrain ourselves with trying to get tickets to ride the Devils Nose Train, and that we would just check out the town.

The road we took into Alausi.

St. Peter statue in Alausi
We got lost in the hills following our odd sense of direction and the GPS.  Little did we know this was going to be a continuing theme throughout our trip. We finally got back down to town and headed out towards Riobamba.

This part of the trip was relatively smooth and the drive was beautiful..we arrived in Riobamba around 5:30 and found a nice hotel. (Hotel Shalom 12.50 per person w/o bkfst. 16.50 with, and secure parking!) 

We took the hotels suggestion and found our way to a restaurant way off the main part of town. We had a Parradilla type dinner. I picked chicken and pork.. it was very good. It also came with blood sausage.. I did not try that.

We were pretty wore out so we all said good nite and headed off to our rooms.

Day one went real well, the weather was good, the scenery was beautiful, the car did pretty well for a 2 Cylinder, and all passengers were still smiling and laughing at the end of the day.