Leaving Banos was very emotional for me. I had gotten to know many residents there. And I saw most of them every day, at least twice, as I walked around their downtown areas to try to get a hold on where everything was in their center of town.
I had gone to one restaurant, owned by a Grandmother, the Mother and their daughter 4 times. Once for breakfast and 3 times for lunch.
The hotel I stayed at, The Sangay Resort and Spa was amazing! Right outside my window was their famous Cascada: Las Termas de las Virgens and baths. All day long I listened to the constant flowing of crisp, clear and flowing water from the top of the mountain to the rocks below
The baths themselves had a long mineral pool at about 106 degrees along with a Caliente Tub of 118 degrees. I tried to get in, but my legs were immediately bright red and felt like they were on fire.
Every morning, when I woke up, I immediately looked at my phone to see what time it was.
If I didn't get to their restaurant by 10;30 AM, I'd be out of luck, because that breakfast was worth the 3 hour drive from Quito. I've never had such amazing coffee, fruit bowl with yogurt, cheese and mushroom omlettes, small balls of baked bread (that I don't know the name of, but were killer with their fresh jams), Empanadas and usually a plate of local cheeses and apples or chocolate!
It doesn't get any better. Except their waiter was awesome and beyond attentive.
Plus, lucky for me, he liked practicing his English and I needed my head to stop hurting from struggling with my horrific attempts at speaking Spanish.
My last breakfast at the Sangay was blessed by their chef coming out and adding a dish of local vegetables, maze, meat of some type, I'm guessing cerdo, and an amazing sauce.
I asked what it was and he said "Oh, Mr. Lipman, it is just something to say thank you for your visit". It really made me feel good. I know that I was one of only a few American's to visit in the last 12 months and most of the people there are Ecuadorian, but I make it a point to always tip generously. Even when I drop off my key to the front desk, or pick up my key or the made asks if I need my room cleaned or...you get the idea.
With lunches in downtown Banos (Or any small town in Ecuador) at $2.50, how could you not be generous?
I had negotiated a cab (I am not ever taking a bus again) to pick me up at 2:00 pm in front of the hotel for $100. Which is cheap if you think about the fact that the cab driver has to bring me there and then drive home. Easily 7-8 hours of his time and gas and wear and tear.
When he arrived, he asked me if we could go pick up his wife and baby to take on the drive.
Who am I to say "no". I mean really? It would be nice to have a car with a crying baby. I could really look forward to that for the next 4 hours.
But you know what? The baby never made a sound and the mother either! They just sat there for 3, instead of 4 hours quietly! Imagine any American Spouse and baby not making a sound for 10 minutes!
We bantered as best I could as he definitely did not have one word of English, except "OK!" or "OK?"
We went through the Banos to Puyo road and it's famous 30 tunnels. There was never a stretch of straight highway for more than 100 yards. We pulled over for me to use a Bano about 90 minutes into the driver. It never stopped raining. Never. And the lightening and Thunder at 5000 feet up is very loud and very close. The rain was torrential compared to Bay Area of CA rains. And I lived there for almost 60 years. So, I think I'm a good judge.
When we finally got close to Macas "The Gateway to the Amazon", we called my Airbnb host to let him know we were close. And he was literally right behind us! Coming back from a soccer game. We pulled over and he arrived a minute later. And again, suerte was on our side as the driveway to their estate was 10 yards from the junction where we stopped.
The junction had 3 open air restaurants with chicken coops of over 20 chickens per coup.
Each open air cooking space had 3 pots going and a grill for the "meat". I was hungry and knew that the refrigerator probably only had water in it (I was right), so I asked if I could buy some food for everyone before the couple drove back home and the Airbnb host (Jose) guided us the long driveway (all rocks of every shape and size) to the home I had rented.
The woman made a full plate of sausages, beef and two chicken legs on top of rice and ensalata and asked me for $1.00 I'm not kidding. $1. I tipped her four and we went up the road. I then paid the cab driver and added a bit extra because we arrived over an hour earlier than GoogleMaps predicted.
As we got up to the top of the road, I got to see what I had only seen in the Airbnb ad...and it was better than I imagined.
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