Lost in Ecuador: Lava on the Rocks

Adventure Travel, Couples Travel, Ecuador, Hostels, Tours & Attractions — By on March 17, 2008 at 9:57 am

Wiped out from the endless rain showers that had soaked us to the skin in Mindo, Jeff and I decided that we might have better luck with the weather in the town of Baños, home of the Tungurahua volcano.

True, the big cone had blown its top just 8 days before our arrival in Ecuador (sending a smoldering column of ash miles into the air and molten rivers of lava streaming toward civilization), but I’d reached the moody stage where I’d rather be coated in ash then wet for one more day. He didn’t come out and say it, but I sensed that Jeff felt the same way. Or, in any case, he was looking forward to a significantly less cranky girlfriend.

Baños and the surrounding area had been designated a “State of Emergency” by the local government, but once Jeff and I learned that the road had been cleared of debris, we made arrangements to hightail it there by bus. While the volcano had settled significantly in the two weeks preceding our arrival, we could still see a massive, silvery plume puffing up from the top of the cone as we rode into town.

We were so distracted by our first-ever active volcano sighting that we very nearly didn’t notice that a passenger (supposedly sleeping) behind us was actually trying to relieve us of our valuables. The bus’ ticket taker had marched over and very pointedly indicated that we should not have our bags at our feet, but in our laps. He later warned me that the man was a thief, and had very nearly snatched our bags from underneath our chairs. While I assumed that this happened with some frequency on long bus rides, particularly to tourists, at that moment I still felt very much a silly gringo.

It took less than four hours to get to Baños. Stepping off the bus and looking around, I was instantly charmed. The place looked like the tropical version of a Colorado ski town, tightly surrounded by a ring of jutting green mountains. Two-story, sherbet-tinted buildings lined cobblestone streets, and in the doorframes, men and women stretched sugary ribbons of taffy that would later be sold as souvenirs.

Bypassing the well-rated-but-noisy hostel Plantas y Blancos (plants and whites, so named for two popular and illegal diversions), we decided to stay instead at the lovely Le Petite Auberge just across the street. The rooms were spotless, the garden setting blissfully quiet. A perfect place to rest up before doing a little volcano exploring-and apres adventure bar hopping.

Here’s us-noticeably drier!-after our three hour hike up to “Vista de Volcan,” several kilometers above Baños. The volcano was covered in clouds by the time we reached the summit, but it was still a gorgeous climb.

To read more about our adventures in lava land, check out the “Ecuador Field Trip” series on Jaunted.com.

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