With a three day weekend to celebrate the independence of Guayaquil, a few of us decided to take a longer trip and head up to Baños, a small down about 8 hours from Cuenca and 3 hours from Quito. To get there and maximize our time, we left early on Friday morning, catching the 5:15 bus out of Cuenca. It was a tough wake up call.
I caught a taxi to the terminal and after I got out I realized that my cell phone fell out of my pocket in the car. I ran after it but the driver was already gone. I stood on the corner furious with myself and totally upset that I'd lost another phone. I was hoping my friends Lauren and Annie would should up soon so I could call the phone and beg the driver to come back. But before they even got to the station the driver pulled up holding my phone, saying I forgot it. I was shocked. Somehow, I managed to find one of the honest taxi drivers, and he actually came back to give it to me. I don't even know how he saw it since I was in the backseat. Now I knew the trip would be off to a good start.
The bus ride up was lousy and long, as we stopped for everyone on the side of the road. That's what you get when you pay $7 for an 8 hour ride. The stink in the bus kept getting worse as we wound our way through the Andes, and after trying to grade some papers for a while, I started to get a little nauseated. After long enough, we finally made it to Ambato where we switched buses for the 45 minute ride to Baños. The change was dramatic. The new bus was like a party bus, comfortable and with cool salsa music playing. The atmosphere was also good, as everyone knew they were on their way to a fun destination.
The trip in through the winding roads was beautiful, but it only got better as we entered the town. Hot but not oppressing, the temperature was perfect to walk around. After finding our hostel that our friends had already gotten rooms in, we dropped our stuff off and got some lunch. We stayed at Hostal Plantas y Blanco located on Martinez y 12 de noviembre. This was a great location because it was right on a main drag where all of the tour booking agencies were located. We paid $7.50 a night because it was a holiday weekend, but normally it could be a little cheaper.
The rooms were comfortable and clean, and we were given towels for free. A great plus about this place was the breakfast restaurant on the roof with a great view of the town and mountains. The food was delicious, and the pancakes were a specialty, though I couldn't eat more than one. If you'd had the appetite, you could eat fruit salad covered pancakes with sugar cane syrup for about $3.
At night, people hung out on the rooftop and grabbed beers from the fridge, that you would later pay for on the honor system. This hostel also had free internet and steam baths, so all told, it was a hell of a deal. This was my first hostel in South America, and I was not disappointed.
More to come...