Monday, October 13, 2008

A Weekend in Baños, Part 3: Mountain Biking

Heading out on the small road, we took up positions as some people went out in front and others hung back by the truck following us. It had been a while since I rode a bike, so it took me a few minutes to get my bearings, but once the awkwardness was out of the way, it was smooth sailing. The old saying is true, once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. It felt great to be cruising down the hill with the wind blowing in my face and the sun on my skin as I weaved recklessly from left to right avoiding pot holes, cars, and occasionally people.

The scenery was absolutely spectacular, and the most difficult part of the trip was finding the balance between looking from side to side at the mountains and keeping an eye on the road. The bikes were nothing special, and in fact, they wound up breaking down as the day went on. First one of the tires blew out on Charlotte, and later her chain came loose. Shortly after that, my chain came loose, and later Charlotte´s chain broke again, so we had to ditch the bikes just as the biking portion of the tour was ending. But that wasn´t until later on in the day.

We went out with 6 of us, along with two other men and a son. The men worked on construction projects for U.S. Embassies all over the world, and the 11 year old son had already lived in Nicaragua, Cambodia, Japan, and now Ecuador. He said that he usually learned the language and translated for his dad, but when he left the country he would forget most of the language. The kid was really cool and mature for his age. I want to be him when I grow up.

We passed by waterfalls and tall peaks that you needed to stretch your neck up to see the tops of. We would take a few stops along the way, but just for a couple of pictures and to adjust the bikes. Most of the trip was downhill, and it was very easy and pleasant. As the day went on, the sun was getting hotter, and I could feel my skin burning without any sunblock. There was little I could do except borrow some from my friends and hope it held up.

After Charlotte´s bike had a flat, we stopped in a little rest area with a view of a valley and 3 or 4 tiendas for about a half hour while it was fixed. I sat down under a tent to avoid the sun and talked for a little bit with a professor from the University of Ambato, who was touring the area with his family. It was nice and relaxing, and just enough time to get out of the sun and rest up in the middle of the day.

Once the bike came back we pushed on, but trouble soon developed as the bike broke down again, and Charlotte was fed up with the problems. A short exchange with the guide left a dent in the bed of the truck, which he was not happy about, and soon after that, we had reached the end of the biking part of the excursion. Ending at a waterfall called Machay, we took about an hour to hike down the steep path and check it out.

It was probably one of the biggest waterfalls I´ve ever seen, and it was worth the 50 cents to get in. Once you got down there you could head down the path to the pools of water where the falls hit or just stand back and still get hit by all of the mist coming out. We stayed down there for a while until we were refreshed, but of course after hiking back up to the road we were hot and sweaty once again.

After wards, we piled into the truck, somehow comfortably fitting 7, and started driving the rest of the way towards Puyo, at the edge of the Amazon Rain Forest, also called the Oriente in Ecuador. Once we got into town we had lunch which was included in the cost of the trip. We all got a soup with every bit of the chicken, including the liver, feet, and head. We could then choose from grilled chicken, pork, or steak. It was delicious and extremely necessary, as we were all starting to crash after the long day.

After lunch we headed out to the animal reserve, where we would play with monkeys.
Continued in Part 4...

Above: Images from the bike ride, Machay waterfall

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