Friday, Jan 27, 2017

San Francisco Plaza, Quito

My friend Rick paid me a visit this week. He is the first one of my friends to come to South America and check out how I live in Ecuador. He didn’t bolt home mid-trip so I guess living here isn’t so bad, just different. I did have to laugh (hard), however, on our way to Banos when he suggested that when we arrive we just ask the concierge at our hotel about a question we had.

I haven’t seen a concierge since flying out of Vegas last year.

Basilica del Voto Nacional, Quito

You may remember from my post last week that I flew from Cuenca to Quito to meet Rick on his arrival from Miami. We stayed in Quito for 2 days and it downpoured the whole time. This didn’t stop us from doing the Historic District walking tour, or going to Middle of the Earth to stand on both hemispheres simultaneously. It just meant that I was wet and cold while we did it.

Middle of the Earth at Museo de Sitio Intinan

Rick standing in both hemispheres simultaneously

Staying at my friend’s, Aaron’s, hostel was a welcome retreat out of the rain at the end of our day, but like all buildings here in Ecuador, there is no heat. Sweatshirts and socks required. I found the warmest place was in my bed under the heavy comforter.

The day we were supposed to leave Quito and head for Banos, the gray clouds hung low seemingly touching the tops of the buildings. It was pouring rain outside and as I sat in the dining room of the hostel eating breakfast, I wondered if we were in for more of this in Banos.

I checked the weather in Banos on my phone. One site said it was 29 degrees and snowing. This made no sense because Banos is lower in elevation than Quito. Another site said it was raining and 42 degrees. This didn’t sound any better but more realistic. I asked Rick what he thought we should do, go to Banos or bail and fly to Cuenca?

I had booked non-refundable rooms in Banos, and also one night back in Quito before we were going to fly to Cuenca for the last two days of Rick’s trip. As we debated what was the right thing to do, a guy from Toronto entered the dining room and sat at the large table we were at.

This man had been in Banos and began telling us about all the things he did there. We explained our dilemma with the weather info we were getting, and he told us he had the same problem trying to find accurate weather in Banos. He finally found a website,, that was correct. We checked it out and according to it, Banos was 72 degrees and sunny…as I sat chilled, covered in my hoodie, and looking through the window at the downpour of rain. Rick and I decided to head to Banos…immediately.

Bus to Banos

It is a three and a half hour bus ride from Quito to Banos. After questioning the clerks at the windows of various buses going to Banos, we picked one. Our big question was, “Is this direct, and how many stops?” They all said they were direct and the number of stops was stated as 1-2.

Of course this is all lies. The bus drivers decide where, when, and how many times they will stop. Our bus only had 5 people on it when we pulled out of the terminal. We stopped for people along the road the entire way. Many people got on, and even off, before we reached Banos. By the time we reached Banos our bus was full, with people even standing in the aisle. Still, it was 3 and 1/2 hours just as advertised. I don’t know how they can figure this out.

banos ecuador

The park in Banos

When we arrived in Banos it was mid-afternoon and the sun was out, the temperature was warm, and we had left the cold and rain behind in Quito. I took away an important lesson from my weather app fiasco earlier in the morning. It is one that applies to life in general about “seeing things through”.

So first, the weather info I was getting wasn’t making sense in its entirety. One site said it was snowing, the other site said it was raining in Banos. I’ve been in Banos before and I know it can rain and be cold. Snow made no sense because of the lower elevation, but the rain forecast could have been accurate.

The second factor was the filter or lens I was seeing this info through. I was cold sitting in the dining room at Aaron’s hostel. The weather outside was dreary and wet. I was projecting this same scenario on Banos. I was projecting how I had been feeling in Quito, dealing with the constant rain and cold, onto what my experience would be like in Banos. These feelings were hampering my ability to see it any other way.

When I was presented with new information from that showed Banos sunny and warm I was still a bit hesitant to believe it. But it did make more sense for what should be happening there. When Rick and I arrived it was perfect weather and continued to be the entire time we were here.

I learned, or at least was reminded again, to see things through and make decisions from that place. Without actually being in Banos, I was only imagining how things would or would not be, and I was making a decision from my imaginations. If I would have not gone, it would have cost me three nights lodging paid in advance, plus increased airfare for changing my flight to Cuenca. It also would have cost me missing out on a lot of fun in Banos.

By going, I wasn’t out anything more than my time and the $4.25 bus ticket, even if I would have immediately turned around and left if the weather was terrible. In reality, the likely hood of immediately leaving would have been slim. Rick and I would have stayed at least one night, eaten some good food, had a drink or two, and found some adventure to do while here.

My point is that how we see things in difficult moments can disproportionately influence and project onto our future events. These negative projections do not necessarily bear any reality to what will actually happen, or what the future will be like. The only way we truly can know is to move forward and experience what awaits us.

How many opportunities do we say no to, instead of yes, because we project an imagined reality filled with fear or discomfort into our future? What does this cost us in living the lives we want to be living? The cold crappy days in Quito were worth this lesson and wake-up call for me.

banos ecuadorBanos is a fun place to walk around, find a good place to eat, have a drink or a coffee, and just enjoy the vibe. I have become old though, and it becomes painfully apparent looking at the majority of the people in town. Twenty, Thirty somethings abound. Many are couples traveling through Ecuador and South America together before they take on permanent jobs and have kids. Banos is filled with sports adventure and everyone is getting their thrill on here.

banos ecuadorThe weather in Banos couldn’t have been better. Rick and I went river rafting and I forgot how much fun it is. The last time I did this I was in college…and was 30 years younger. It was a lot of work paddling but I never got tossed out of the raft, and as a team we kept our raft upright over the rapids, unlike rafts of others in our group that flipped.

There was a guy in a kayak that took pics of us along the way. I am in the front but on the other side of the raft from the camera. The other guy in front with me, Ryan, is a super great guy…and on the hulk-side of big, so my scrawny self is obscured most of the time. My friend Rick is in the middle on the side you see.

banos ecuador

In our rafting group, Rick and I were older by at least 25 years than anyone else in our group. But hey, age is a number. Staying fit, both physically and mentally, allows anyone to participate and have fun. The tour operator we used was GeoTours. I highly recommend them.

Rick ready to fly

While in Banos we also got some zip lining in. One of the places along the canyon is a double zip line, which also includes a zip line back to the starting point. Compared to the other ziplines along the canyon, it is like two zips for the price of one. It also is a lot of fun. The first line immediately starts over the wide expanse of the canyon and river below. The second line skims across the tree tops of the heavily forested plateau, then the deep canyon just opens up underneath. It was trippy.

When we finished zip lining we went to see the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. I really like this place. The power of the falling water is intense, and the sound and spray make for a memorable experience every time.

Banos was a great time and the weather made it all that much more fun to enjoy the outdoors. Rick and I got another “direct” bus back to Quito. By the time we hit the edge of Quito it was like being on a city bus. All the people we picked up hours before along the highway were now being dropped off hither and dither as we slowly made our way to the bus terminal. And again, 3 and 1/2 hours for us to arrive…no matter where and when all these stops happen.

We spent the night at the airport Wyndham before flying back to Cuenca. As we were talking to the woman at the front desk and checking in, we were interrupted from someone behind us. When I turned, there was an employee in uniform holding a silver tray with two champagne glasses filled with juice. Rick and I started cracking up…the concierge!

We flew back to Cuenca on Tame, and it was a small, twin prop plane. The overhead was too small to hold my back pack, but it did fit under the seat. It was quite a different experience than flying Latam on the way here. We only flew at about 10,000 feet and sometimes it didn’t feel like we were much higher than the mountains below us.

When we arrived in Cuenca it was a full blue sky and sunny day. A gift for my visiting friend for sure. It was about 10:30 am when we arrived in town, so after going home and checking in with my family, we headed out to see the sites. I took Rick to Turi which gave him a fantastic view of Cuenca, made even more so by the clear and bright day we were having.

Finally had my swing experience

I have been to Turi, and to the swing located here, many times. Today I finally went on the swing myself instead of just watching the guests we bring here do it. I have to admit it was more fun than I thought it would be. The initial drop is a good rush. After that though I started getting nauseated as I waited to come to a stop. I think I’m coming down with something.


Rick gets a great view

When we were ready to leave Turi I couldn’t get a taxi, so Rick and I walked from here to Mall de Rio. Along the way we tried to flag a taxi down but didn’t have any luck. It isn’t a long walk but in full sun it does get warm. Welcome to getting around in Ecuador!

After grabbing an ice cream at Tutto Freddo in the mall, we did get our taxi and went to Parque Paraiso. This is one of the best green spaces in Cuenca. I showed Rick where the Yanuncay flows into the Tomebamba, and we walked the trails around the park. It was time well spent on a beautiful day in Cuenca.

At dinner Rick, me, and all of the fam got on the bus and headed to El Centro. This was Rick’s first city bus experience and fortunately it wasn’t completely packed, at least by my frame of reference. We ate at El Mercado and had a nice night view of Turi lit up on the hill across the valley from us. The food was excellent as usual at El Mercado, and the company and conversation was even better.

The next day I brought Rick along with me on my favorite walk along the Yanuncay. At one point we just sat in silence on a couple big rocks and watched the river flow by us. It’s times and places like these I realize Cuenca is a cool place to live. When we got back to the house we made plans to meet Chase and Easton for lunch before their Spanish class. Rick and I headed into El Centro and I gave him the “walking tour”.

By 7 pm Wednesday I was with Rick at the airport enjoying one last beer before he headed to his gate on his way home. It has been a whirlwind trip, but we covered at lot of ground and he got a good feel for the towns and cities in the Sierras of Ecuador.

When I woke up early Thursday morning I was hit with a bad cold. With the amount of congestion I had, it was difficult to breathe. We were all due to meet up with Scott and Colleen to hike the Cajas in a few hours. I tried to steam it out in the shower and then fill myself with hot tea, but nothing was helping. In the end we cancelled our planned trip.

I still haven’t hiked in the Cajas and time is running out for me as the calendar moves toward March 1st. Heidi and I are planning a trip to Olon to look for a place to move to. Not knowing exactly where the “best” place for us to live on the coast is, has been one of the things slowing me down getting back. At this point I just need to bite the bullet and get back, knowing I can figure the rest, or the “best”, out after we are there.

We are all disappointed with the federal hiring freeze Trump put into effect. After seven months of Chase interviewing, jumping through hoops, and waiting for background checks to be completed, he was notified his job hire with US Aid is on hold until further notice. Hopefully it will all work out sooner than later for him.