BANOS AT NIGHT
Leaving La Cascada for a an evening exploration of Banos, I am approached by a young man who is offering a night tour to “Bella Vista” for $3.00. It seems like a reasonable thing to do. I have an hour before the tour departs at 9pm. For $1.00, I dine on grilled chicken, boiled potatoes and red onions covered with salsa. I have come across a grandmother type that is mastering a grill just outside a store front.
A walk around town and I find many businesses that offer $5 daily mountain bike rentals. Part of my plan for tomorrow. At 9pm, just outside the main bus terminal with others I board an open air tour bus decorated with colorful lights. A 10 minute drive through town and we are down shifting uphill towards Bella Vista. It has cool down a bit and the night air is refreshing.
Arriving at Bella Vista, we look down at a fog cover Banos with its city lights twinkling below us. A brief history of the area including information about a nearby volcano that recently erupted in 2006 is given. We are then served warm canela tea with the option to add a little Ecuadorian “Firewater”.
The fog lifts and the view of Banos below sharpens on a moonless night. A bonfire is built and we gather around to be entertained by a comedian magician. Although his jokes are in Spanish the laughter translates well.
The smoke of the bonfire is competing with with two nearby grilling food vendors. Another $1.00 well spent and I am enjoying a tender and flavorful beef, sausage and potato shish kabob.
With a $5 per day mountain bike, I am about to embark on a downhill ride from Banos. The complete route is 60km to Puyo but I will make my return from Machay about a 16km ride.
Leaving Banos, both brakes are vibrating as I control my building speed. I stand up crossing speed bumps and parts of my body are very happy. A short stop at Banos Dam and I take in the scenery that I have seen before but this time from a whole new perspective.
In a slow gradual climb from the dam, I hear a rumble from behind. I must now share the road with an approaching yellow dump truck. I move …. a la derecha. On both sides of this two lane highway there is a mix of densely covered mountains, streams and waterfalls. I have the advantage to freely stop and absorb it all.
The only tunnel that I must ride through approaches and I plan my transit strategy (peddle very fast). Alone in the water dripping tunnel, I celebrate the midpoint zig zagging across the yellow center line and letting out an echoing “Yahoo” … No cars, buses or yellow trucks to worry about.
As I explore my next stop, I find a man sitting in a truck with it's engine running. However, this truck has no wheels, no doors, no windshield, and no windows. The driver seems confident and comfortable sitting in the shade, he is the cable car operator at Manto de Novia. $1 and I am accelerating rapidly along the edge of a cliff towards the valley floor a thousand feet below. The cable car operator becomes a speck above as the wind whistles by my open air, secure yourself, three cable gondola.
De Novia towering twin waterfalls is accessed by an expansion bridge with rubber footing. I bounce on my way across as De Novia's thundering sound increases. Navigating slippery rocks for a closer look, I am soon completely moisturized by 50 foot plus sprays from where the waterfalls end their descent before streaming to the valley floor.
At a nearby road bridge, I meet an enterprising Ecuadorian that tries to convince me to take a thrill ride. For $10, he will swing me under the road bridge suspended about 60 feet above a rock populated stream. Afraid to leave a stain in his “Safety Harness”........ I keep on biking.