Way back when I was still in Ecuador, I posted photos of some of the delicious foods I had while there. Here are some more. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten most of the names of these, so join in if you recognize a dish.
I appreciate that the traditional way to get to a waterfall is to hike to it, but when I was in Baños, Ecuador, I discovered another way: party bus. There’s a series of waterfalls along Rio Pastaza just outside of town. You can bike it, but if you are still suffering from a sprained ankle in pursuit of a different set of waterfalls, for example, that option becomes less appealing. So you can take a chiva instead.
“Chiva” means “goat” in Spanish, and in several Latin American countries, it’s the nickname given to party buses: covered, open-sided trucks outfitted with disco balls and massive sound systems. The chivas used for the waterfalls tours are equipped with rows of benches, too. I joined a few other tourists and we enjoyed the bizarre experience of being blasted with loud salsa music in the early afternoon as we sped along a two-lane highway.
Of course, the guide talked in Spanish, so I only understood a little, but frankly, you don’t need to understand words to appreciate a waterfall. We went in a cable car that zipped us across a ravine, to the edge of two waterfalls, which tumbled into the river below as we swung on the cable above. Party bus and then cable car door-to-door service–there are lots of ways to get to a waterfall.
After an interlude wherein the guide wheedled and cajoled to get us all to go on his friend’s zipline, we carried on to the final stop. Here, we had a twenty-minute walk along a beautiful path, down a tricky bit of hill, to a wooden bridge. This was a serious bridge–it was so steep, you had to hold on to a rope anchored to the shore, and use it to walk midway down the bridge. The bridge swayed in the breeze, but once you held on to the sides to steady yourself, you could look around and appreciate the biggest waterfall of the day, roaring down the side of the nearby hill.
The music on the ride back into town was just as loud as the ride out had been, although now we were all pumped up from seeing the waterfalls, we were more ready to groove along. Baños–the only place I’ve been where you can reggaeton your way to a natural wonder.
One of the great pleasures of long-term solo travel is the ability to change plans on a whim. I booked two nights in a small beach hostel in Ecuador, but it turned out to be so close to my platonic ideal of a beach experience, that I stayed for two weeks.
My days followed a pattern: I got up sometime before 10am, ate the best breakfast I had in South America (eggs! warm rolls!), jumped in the waves in the sea, sunbathed, read my book, wrote a blog post, chatted with my new friend Hannah (who was doing a Workaway stint there), snacked, hopped back in the ocean or in the pool, drank a beer while watching the sun set, ate a communal dinner with other hostel guests, chatted and read til bedtime.
Re-reading that paragraph, I’m wondering why I ever left.
It was a short walk to the tiny town of Las Tunas, but for groceries or laundry, you needed to catch the hourly bus into Puerto Lopez, about a twenty-minute ride north. I did that run a few times, but after awhile, when I had the basics for my groceries and wore just my swimsuit and one dress in rotation, I stayed at the beach. If other guests were going into town, I’d ask them to pick something up for me, like a pack of tortillas or a few pieces of fruit. I thought that was all right, but near the end of my stay there, Hannah was asking me if I ever intended to do my own shopping again. I suppose that’s a good sign it’s time to move on.
It took til midsummer, but I finally got to my first festival of this year. Brockwell Park, in southwest London, has hosted the Lambeth Country Show for the last forty years. It’s a big ol’ party, with a large music tent, a crafts area, booths for various charities, tons of food stalls, and a farm and livestock area. People from all over the district come to have a day out in the country in the middle of London.
The excellent Liz, who along with her flatmates is hosting me in London this summer, was working at the Bee Urban tent. Bee Urban keeps bees at a lodge in the city, and it educates people on how to plant flowers that will attract bees. I helped out at their candle-rolling station, showing five-year-olds how to press the wick into the wax and carefully roll it up and stick it with a pin to keep it all in place. The kids were all adorable, and so pleased with what they created.
Naturally, when we heard there was camel racing, we had to go see that. The announcer was great, nonstop chatter about the camels and their jockeys. Her favorite camel was Bertie, the youngest of them all, with the longest legs, which shows promise for speed in the future, but for now, Bertie hardly knew what to do with them. He galloped like kids do when they’re pretending to be horses–galump, galump–not the smoother pace of the older camels. Maybe next year he’ll be a winner.
I ate a pork-and-stuffing-and-applesauce sandwich (delicious), lay on the grass in the summer sun and listened to classic reggae (blissful), and watched dozens of kids running around gleefully, their faces painted and their hands sticky with sweets (beyond adorable). It was a perfect festival day, right up until the point the skies opened up and drenched everyone in rain so torrential that the fair was closed only about twenty minutes later. Even that is kind of part of the full festival experience, though, isn’t it?
I found a baggie of British coins in my things when I was packing at my parents’ house a week ago, and I put the whole thing in my backpack, figuring I’d use it all up when I got to England. It made my bag noticeably heavier, but no matter, it’ll all be gone soon, right?
When I opened up the bag on the train into London, to count how much I had, I found that about two-thirds of the coins were from my first solo trip, when I collected coins from different European countries before the euro went into effect. Oops, that’s a lot of dead weight I’m carrying around.