From Misahualli, Ecuador, Kevin & I hopped on a local bus through the Amazon & back to Tena. Tena is a relatively larger town, though both are tiny outposts against the jungle growth. We were reaching the heights of Carnivale so every walk down the street involved being chased by kids with water guns & spray shaving cream. Wearily, we found our bus for Banos.
Given that we were approaching Banos from the southwest, we wound up riding Ruta de las Cascadas, the famous winding highway of waterfalls. Many tourists mountain bike down this road & around the mountain tunnels. I have to say, I was OK taking in the view from bus windows.
As I approached Ruta de las Cascadas, & then Banos proper, I began to feel walled in by the Andes. I wasn't claustrophobic nor was this unpleasant. But the mountains literally seemed to become walls. Their presence was so all-pervasive. I felt inhabited by them.
I'm reading Joan Halifax right now. She talks about pilgrimages to mountains & how mountains disappear as we draw nearer. For a time, we approach & see their grandeur from a distance. As we draw closer, we are absorbed into them. Spending significant stretches of time in mountains or near them, we start to understand their living dynamism. Mountains stretch, grow, crumble, and shape those near them. Their presence looms.
We were still in the throes of Carnivale. Banos is a popular destination for Ecuadorian tourists! We had heard that Banos is possibly the most Gringo town. During Carnivale, it was dominated by Ecuadorians. Also, most rooms were booked far in advance. I had heard about a well ranked bed & breakfast called Magic Stone, so we hiked there first. They were of course, full. We wound up hiking to nine hotels, hostals, & B & Bs before finally finding a tiny cell in a downtown hostal. Of course there was a shared bath down the hall with only cold water (& Banos gets COLD at night!). Kevin loved our tiny cell. It only fit a desk and a glorified twin bed. He felt like a monk & sat down to meditate. I chalked it up to adventure & swallowed at having to pay $20 for this room. Way, way over-priced.
(It did, but it was diluted. I want to go back.)
After rinsing off we hiked back to Magic Stone and came across this sculpture. Obviously I'm not the only one inspired by the looming Andes.