Roberto Carlos – Un Millón De Amigos
There is a school next door which kicks off its day at 7am with the above song blaring from its speakers. For a good half an hour, the only sound on God’s green earth is the above song accompanied by a man with a microphone crying out numbers. I have no idea what exactly is going on but I think it is 5 year olds doing press-ups. That’s normal right?
We ate a simple but enjoyable breakfast of fruit juice, coffee, bread, cheese and eggs and waited for the rain to stop so we could begin our day. Predictably, the rain didn’t stop and this caused me no end of great upset and I was a little disgruntled at this showcasing of weather. Finally at around 10am, we conceded that the rain was unlikely to stop at any time soon and braved our way into a leaky Baños.
The plan had been to rent bikes from the local townsfolk and make our way down the winding 17km roads to Rio Verde, embarking on the Amazonian basin and taking in some of the majestic cascadas or waterfalls along the way. As always, I was horribly underdressed, donned only in a T-shirt and shorts. A compromise was attained by purchasing a disposable poncho, which had conferred a similar level of protection to a Tescos bag. It was also a dirty shade of mint green which didn’t improve matters much.
Our first waterfall(s), the Manto de la Novia (Bride’s Veil) was encountered after an hour or so of cycling, the opposite end to an eye watering gorge, traversed by a zip wire and a cable car. Of course I being I, made the wise decision to zip wire across the gorge suspended on nothing more than steel cables, pulleys and what seemed like a baby’s dungarees. Moments before I was to embark on this – I noticed duct tape confidently securing one end of the steel cables on my side. So of course, I did it anyway.
We cycled the full 17km route to Rio Verde, which was filled with landscapes the like of which you never see, growing up in London. As we ambled closer to the Amazon, we could palpably appreciate a change in the atmosphere – as the climate grew warmer, the flora and fauna changed with new and interesting plant life, large stretching leaves and multi-coloured butterflies.
The ultimate waterfall encountered us at the end – the thundering Pailón del Diablo. I was not blessed with the required lexicon to articulate just how humbling this was, but just imagine a wall of water throwing itself from the skies down into the most terrifying open mouthed gorges. The translation is Devil’s Cauldron. That should tell you all you need to know.
Having made our way back to Baños we returned home to change briefly and and in the warm tones of 5pm, we completed some errands – well I completed some errands – namely the repair of my pantaloons which had adorned themselves with a gaping hole traversing the crotch region. I wasn’t advertising so it was important to correct this. We drank coffee and a mulled wine variant whilst we waited the repair – no less than a princely sum of €1. In England, you would be looking at least a tenner.
Trousers repaired, we wearily made our way to the natural thermal springs at the edge of town, piscina de la virgin to bath in the communal baths alongside our Ecuadorean cousins. These springs are heated by the local Tungurahua volcano and confer some supposed medicinal effect regarding their electrolyte content. I’m not one for arbitrary anecdote but I can tell you several things
1. There is nothing like being boiled alive in Central America in a volcanic pool, rubbing legs with the local townsfolk, watching the waterfall cascade into rock pools, metres away from where you are sitting.
3. My ITB had been playing up at this point, likely aggravated by the endless cycling and I can swear to its improvement after. Relatively at least.
I concluded my thermal tour with a plunge into the predictably deserted ice pool, in the best interests of my circulation. Needless to say, this was perishingly cold and me, not being one to break the mould, rapidly made my exit.
We ended the evening in the delightful Cafe Hood, a small restaurant playing lively house music, accompanied by warm friendly staff in a hostel like atmosphere. I dined on a beautifully simple but belly warming meal which put me on the cusp of complete satisfaction and teetering somnia.
My plate (in the preceding post) showcases a meal of fajitas, eggs, tomato sauce, brown rice, guacamole, black eyed peas and cheese. A grand finale.
Anyway, when I get home in the next couple of weeks, I will be updating these posts with videos and better pictures, so if you care enough to rejoin me then, I would be honoured.