We headed to Banos, Ecuador from Devil’s Cauldron (about 40 km away). It’s near the active Tungurahua and a gateway to the nearby Amazon Basin. On the way there we drove by a village that was covered by an eruption about a year and a half ago. We saw the scarred remains of a home.
Once in Banos, we had lunch at a small bed and breakfast and spent the next few hours walking around the city. There were lots of tourist shops offering tours to the Amazon and volcano.
Banos has a very artistic flair, with artisans working in doorways and windows and paintings on buildings. It has a large ex-pat population, and I can see why. If I return to Ecuador, I would want to come back here.
We wandered into a a vegetable ivory shop called, El Cade. The son is the artisan, carving vegetable ivory, and the mother sat in the corner stringing jewelry he created. He gave a demonstration of how he carved a dried tagua nut into a small pitcher. The tagua nut is actually a seed from a certain palm tree. The vegetable ivory resembles elephant ivory and was actually used for buttons before
plastic was popular. The small sculptures and jewelry were inexpensive and made for great souvenirs.
We took our bag of gifts and headed for the market. Outside vendors hacked away at sugar cane with machetes. One vendor was selling sugarcane ginger moonshine along with every other possible thing made of sugarcane. I took a shot of the moonshine and it was exactly as I had expected, enough to take my breath.
A little buzz from my shot of moonshine, I ventured behind the market and found an amazing view of the city.
We drove away from the city and towards our lodge for the night. We drove into the Valley of Patate and then just above it to Hacienda Manteles. This place was like something out of fairytale. It was chilly and the air was crisp. The slightly smoking volcano loomed not far in the distance.
When I was shown to my room, a sheep and llama were hanging out nearby. It just added to the magic of the place. The rooms were situated so that 3 rooms were
inside one building with a little living room that had a fireplace. I took a shower and then ventured out to take pictures of the grounds. Lil’ man was playing with the random animals and running everywhere.
As it began to get dark I grabbed an alpaca blanket from my room and big bottle of beer. I had Karl meet me on the porch swing set up overlooking the volcano and valley below. Soon we could see every star in the sky. It was very romantic and peaceful.
Of course it didn’t last long and we ventured up for dinner. We served family style in the main dining room and after we sat around with everyone having drinking by the fire and chatting. Eventually our guide broke out a guitar and we all sang along. It was one of those moments that can make an entire trip. Lil’ man fell asleep on the couch and several of us sat near the fire singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. It was a perfect way to end our night.