Laffy Taffy

You wouldn’t think that bitching about the weather would have any impact whatsoever on Mother Nature(or at least not a positive one), but since I wrote my last post (about the cold and the rain and the hail) we’ve had a couple of gorgeous days. It has been nice and sunny….

We’ve been hanging out in a touristy little town called Baños for the past several days. It’s at the foot of a giant volcano called Tungurahua which means “little hell” in the native language. It’s supposedly a pretty active volcano that spews ash quite frequently and often has active lava flows, but we haven’t seen much. The mountains surrounding the town are so steep that we can’t see the volcano from where we are. We saw it on our bike ride down to Baños but didn’t catch any amazing eruptions. That’s okay with me though because in the not too distant past they had to evacuate the entire town for a few months. The town is only on yellow alert now, so we’re relatively safe. On a less scary note, the town is known for its taffy (hence the name of this post). We haven’t tried it yet, but we’re going to pick some up on our way back from the internet cafe.

Anyways, we had an awful lot of fun getting to Baños too — I wouldn’t want to cheat you by failing to mention our adventures on the way here.

We left Latacunga in the morning to head south once more. On our way out of town we spotted the local dairy: a man had two goats tied to a street light and was milking them on the spot. Nearly every woman who passed by with a small child bought a dixie cup of fresh milk for the kid. The kids all walked away with goat milk mustaches.

Tempted though we were, Mike and I did not have any fresh goat milk.

Mike went on a photo mission in Latacunga. Many of the fruits were nicely displayed in baskets.

The chickens weren’t displayed quite as prettily.

On the route between Latacunga and our next overnight spot, Ambato, we passed through some fun little towns. We’re pretty sure that Salcedo must be the ice cream capital of Ecuador. As we approached the town we kept seeing more and more ice cream shops. We’d see one, then three stores down there’d be another. Soon they were lined up as many as 5 in a row. We’re used to this ridiculous phenomenon that is common abroad (in Hanoi, Vietnam there are entire streets devoted to selling pot holders, for instance), but Salcedo really took ice cream selling to an extreme. At one point we stopped to consult our map and discovered that we could see seventeen ice cream stores from that one stationary position on the road. They must eat ice cream for breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, lunch, diner, and bedtime snacks in Salcedo!

“I scream; you scream; we all scream for ice cream!” You can only see three ice cream shops in this picture, but Mike estimates that there were 200 in town. And it was not a very big town.

Shortly after Salcedo we rolled through a town that is not pig friendly. On the one street of that town we saw at least a dozen hogs hanging in front of restaurants. None of them looked too happy about it. We also saw some cuy (roast guinnea pig), which is a specialty in both Ecuador and Peru. We haven’t tried any yet, but I supposed it’s inevitable.

An unhappy pig.

This photo was actually taken in Baños, but I thought I’d put it here since I explained about the cuy in the above paragraph. Don’t they look tasty?

We stayed in Ambato for one night and enjoyed walking around the town, despite the fact that our guidebook said there was nothing to do there. We passed several interesting churches, some nice parks, and an interesting mausoleum for Juan Montalvo (an Ecuadorian writer from the town). We also tried this really odd dessert that seems popular in Ecuador. Basically, an old woman sits by the road with a giant bowl overflowing with what looks like frosting. When someone wants to purchase some of this concoction, the old lady will scoop a big glob into an ice cream cone and send the person on his/her merry way. We had to try it. Turns out that the frosting look-a-like is actually a bit more like some kind of gelatin. I thought it was kind of weird — especially the texture — but Mike and I managed to finish one between the two of us.

Here’s a pic of that weird frosting/gelatin dessert.

This is Ambato, on our way into town. Population: 150,000 — Most of the cities we’ve been to in Ecuador so far have been quite a bit bigger than most of the cities in Central America.

The inside of this church was HUGE! It was pretty in a more modern way.

Juan Montalvo’s mausoleum and museum. Sorry, but I’m not familiar with his writings.

After Ambato we headed toward Baños, where we are currently. That ride was certainly memorable because we dropped a good 3000 feet in elevation. Mike loves the downhill rides, but I’m not such a big fan. My brakes were pretty hot and my wrists were pretty sore (from all the pressure on them) by the time we pulled into Baños. Mike had to keep stopping to wait for me, but at least that gave him time to take pictures of the ridiculous views! At one point we had to pass through a section of road that had been taken out by a landslide, which was fun. When we got to Baños, I was ready to stay for a few days, so it was lucky that we were already planning to do so.

A view of the mountains.

And another. I’m not really sure that the photos capture how very large these mountains are or how steep and long the hills that go down them are.

You’re just going to have to trust that I’m in this picture, because even with the arrow pointing directly at me, you still can’t spot me. You need a powerful zoom!

Some pretty flowers and a scary spider.

The landslide clean-up is in progress.

So, this is our third day staying in Baños. We’ve been staying in a $10 hotel room that affords us pretty nice views of the city. October is apparently the month in which Baños residents celebrate their patron saint, so we’ve seen some fun parades and parties. They even have a little train with Flinstones characters on it circling the town. The church is pretty cool too — it’s lit up like a Disney castle and the inside features paintings of all the miracles that Baños’ saint is responsible for.

The night-time view from our hotel room is lovely.

Voila! the Disney church of Baños.

A roasted (hornado) piggy on display in the Baños covered market.

I love how colorful this market photo is!

Today we went on a guided canyoning trip near town. It only took us a couple of hours, but we got to rappel down 5 or 6 waterfalls. Although we would have preferred to do the trip on our own, we enjoyed ourselves. The waterfalls were pretty and they weren’t too cold.

From here we will bike down another 3000 feet to the Amazon jungle town of Puyo. I think we pass at least a dozen waterfalls on the way down. I’m not looking forward to the steep hills, but I think it will be a neat ride nonetheless. We’ll keep you posted.

And now for the poll update. The answer to the last poll was the donkey. We saw all kinds of animals jutting out from the basilica, but we didn’t see any donkeys. Maybe they’re too boring or common. Anywho, congrats to those of you who guessed right. Now there’s a new poll/trivia question, so be sure to put your guesses in before the answer is revealed!

Here are a few more catch-up photos, too:

I’m trying another version of the Quito panorama photo. Mike saved it differently, so if you click on the picture, you might be able to see a larger version of it.

This is a lovely decoration on top of one of the churches in Quito.

I’m standing on top of the church where the nuns sold their home-made lotions and potions.

This photo is from last week when we were leaving Lasso — it features the Volcan Cotopaxi. We were at 11000 feet when Mike snapped the photo, which makes this a pretty tall mountain. Note how it is covered in snow despite its proximity to the equator.

I have no idea what this sign means, so this is not a trivia question with an answer, but if you have any guesses let Mike and I know!

P.S. Since one is passing by right now, Mike wants me to let you know that the garbage trucks in Baños are musical. Sometimes they sound like an ice cream truck and sometimes they sound like a slot machine, but you always know they’re coming!

2 Responses to “Laffy Taffy”
  1. Karen Brady says:

    Wow, love all the pictures!! Glad to hear the weather has been nicer for you. I really like the church pictures. The inside one is beautiful, and the outside/night one is, too. And the moon… You know, I saw a moon just like that here the other night! [singing] “Some – where, Out – There”. Sounds like you are having a great time so far in South America! Just don’t go mistaking those garbage trucks for ice-cream trucks!Love, Ma

  2. Deb says:

    Glad you are going down those hills and we aren’t. Today our big adventure was riding around in a jeep and drinking opium. Not kidding. love, Mom and Deb

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