Celebrations and Commiserations

We had a fairly quiet night after arriving back in Quito, a lovely city but not one we have seen this trip instead quietly remembering our previous visit. Nonetheless we did enjoy the various restaurants, a coffee shop serving delicious Yucca cakes and hot chocolate on the way back from the ATM and a Lebanese restaurant called El Arabe – a Rough Guide recommendation – the scenery en route was interesting as although “in a nice part of town” there were plenty of scantily clad young ladies on each street corner who seemed to be attracting lots of attention from the traffic which seemed to slow especially to be able to check on their well being.

An excellent dinner with Geoff, Tony, Terry, Leslie, Jane and Colin followed by a gentle walk home including a cheery “Welcome to Equador” from the street walkers opposite our hotel.

We did make re-acquaintance with one old haunt The Magic Bean restaurant where we had a somewhat confused breakfast; in fact one member of the party didn’t get her breakfast at all, although the food we did get was excellent.

It was an easy journey to Banos, stunning scenery including numerous waterfalls. We were staying outside of the town as it dominated by an active volcano which is currently on alert and there is only one way out of town. We were full of good intentions to camp but the persistent rain and cheap rooms persuaded us to upgrade.

Lunch en-route was at a “trabitta” site basically a “homemade” cable car which crosses the valley, a couple of cables for the car to be suspended from and a drive cable – in this case driven by an old truck engine / axle mounted on a wooden frame. Not for me but a number of the group enjoyed the ride across the valley. I preferred to take the photograph

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Market Stall

A chilled afternoon writing the Galapagos blog and making a start on the photo editing and a few cold ones in the evening to accompany the bbq provided by the campsite owners Sue and Mark along with homemade brownies.

There are seven waterfalls in the immediate vicinity of the campsite so next day with Jane and Colin we set off, firstly for a 10 minute bus ride which stops on request anywhere along the road and for $.50 will take you miles. Then a walk into the village and onto the scenic walk to the waterfall – having somehow missed the main entrance – but the gardens and views were terrific although health and safety distinctly lacking so slightly treacherous in places but spectacular views of the falls.

Lunch was grilled trout, out of a tank and onto the grill, the slight pangs of guilt outweighed by the delicious fish, Colin opted not to have any but 50 yards further on there was a recommended empanada shop (small filled pastries a la Cornish pasty) where he had a meat and a chicken one and Jane and I shared a chocolate and banana one which was simply gorgeous.

Having explored one side of the falls we were going to explore the other but the weather deterred us and we went back for another lazy few hours.

Thursday 18th April, my 59th Birthday. We went into the town of Banos, the bus being an easy  option now, and was treated to a delicious lunch by Colin and Jane at a balcony restaurant where we also met some more of the group for a drink, including Pete and Rogan back from an hour quad biking.

Banos has one of the most strangely decorated churches, it is full of paintings depicting “miracles”,  survivors of disasters such as collapse of aforementioned trabitta. Generally survival due to last second appeal to the church, although it’s never explained how they ended up in that mess in the first place :-).

Another cable failure…….

Back to base where Karen made some chocolate crispies and coconut macaroons to accompany birthday dinner which was complete with cake & candles and a rum punch, courtesy of Pete. The deal on the punch was I had to drink whatever was left, so whilst having my fair share I made sure it was consumed. Retired to bed, happy and relaxed as a newt. Birthday greetings from all the family reminded us of missing them, but all in all probably the best birthday celebrations in years.

7am start – ouch – for long drive to Cuenca in somewhat gloomy & rainy weather but with glimpses on stunning scenery en-route. Icatha struggling with the high altitude her cpu being programmed for European climbes – add need to get re-programmed to list of truck jobs.

Arriving at 5.30 pm quick shower and the unfortunate news that Uncle Alex had passed away – no one wanted to tell me on my birthday. Alex was a truly great character, witty despite his profound deafness and above all an old school scouse scallywag with stories to turn your hair white, I will miss him telling them. He was royally toasted at the micro brewery in Cuenco in Red Ale (what else) the 3.5 LITRES I consumed in short order did lead to me calling it an evening early and was seen back to the hotel by the equally relaxed Terry.

I hope Alex would be amused by the thought of being toasted half a world away in Peruvian ale. All the best mate, you were one of a kind.

Karen went onto the Eucalyptus Asian restaurant with half a dozen others for a pleasant meal and evening but said she missed me, I do love that girl. Terry was part of this group and after the meal 5 of them (Tony, Geoff, Francois, Terry and Lesley) jumped a cab – then realised no-one knew the name or address of the Hostel. Inspiration struck and they managed to get back to the microbrewery from where they were able to find their way back to the Hostal. Tony then decided he didn’t want to share with the other guys in his room so decided to sleep in the lounge only to find door locked, undeterred he then climbed in through the kitchen serving hatch to discover the reason the lounge was locked was the somewhat startled, female, nightporter asleep on the sofa. Exit one highly embarrased Tony. A year ago a he was a responsible member of society – a 30 year veteran policeman. Now ?

Woke up ravenous and remarkably hangover free, unlike some 🙂 , and so had an excellent eggs and bacon breakfast at the cafe next door with the health option of yogurt and (mountain of) fruit for Karen.

Cuenca is a lovely city to meander through, a combination of art and culture plus real street life in the form of markets, shops cafes and of course the associated people watching. There is a particularly impressive cathedral and we lit a candle for Alex and other departed loved ones, not because of the religious connotations simply because I like the idea of remembering them in this way and if it’s left burning in a nice setting to boot then why not?

Courtesy of fellow celiac Vanessa Karen discovered Quimbioto, maize based cake which is widely available at bakeries and street vendors. Lunch was in the market at one of many stalls selling fresh roast pork off the bone sucked in by the free sample, lunch for 2 $3.

A Thai dinner with Jane, Colin, Tony and Geoff finished our varied day of varied gastronomic delights, although Karen got something wrong as upside tummy next morning.

An easy run to the border next morning but unbelievably, considering she must have the most scrutinised foreign passport in Ecuador more problems for Karen. It was a small consolation but actually affected 6 of us. The problem being the stamp in the passport didn’t match the details entered on the computer which said we had entered at a different point a few miles away.

Although officials accepted it wasn’t our fault it was definitely our problem, the initial advice being to go back to the border to correct it – the equivalent of being in John O’Groats and told you need to go to Lands End. The irony for Karen being that having been refused entry initially  they now didn’t want to let her out of Ecuador………

Pete to the rescue and a couple of hours at the main border post down the road was able to get hold of someone with sufficient authority to correct the records. A mere 3 hours later we were on our way.

It was a beautiful drive through rocky passes and sand duned beaches to Mancora for some beach time. Gave into temptation once more and opted for a room upgrade – camping is becoming a thing of the past……….

Photo’s Here

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