|Andes to Amazon|
|Dispatch 7 - Banos|
|Beyond Salasaca both the traffic and the climbs diminished.|
|A country of contrast, a few kilometers down the road from traditional Salasaca is Pelileo, the jeans capitol of Ecuador. In this relatively small town there are several jean manufacturers and dozens of large jeans store. As best I can tell, many are the outlet stores for the factories that are in the town. To make the story a little more intreguing, many, if not all of the factories are owned by South Koreans.|
The story is that you can get Levi's, Guess, Calvin Klein or
whatever other band
you want (not necessarily under license) for a fraction of the cost that they
would be in the North America or Europe.
gentleman (right) watching the street scene in Pelileo asked to have his picture taken.
It was taken and is now posted on the Internet.
Pelileo, the road starts to follow the canyon of the Rio
Patate and then the Rio Pastaza as they heads towards the Amazon. It is a spectacular
downhill ride. Where the land is flat enough to cultivate there
are large fruit orchards. Generally the road traverses the side
of the mountain, with a steep face above and a drop-off below.
citrus fruit orchard are visible hundreds of feet below where the land
flattens out near the bottom of the canyon.
approached Banos we
should have also had spectacular views of the Tungurahua Volcano, but
the weather didn't cooperate. The cloud ceiling was too low.
|Banos is set on the side of the Tungurahua Volcano, which has been active for the last few years. For a couple years, at the end of the last century, the entire town was evacuated and closed. On one visit, just as we came into town, the sirens were blaring and people were streaming through the streets, which was a little alarming. It turns out that it was only a drill and notices of the drill were posted all over town. Not the first memo I've missed.|
Banos is a tourist town. While nowhere near as bad as I
expecting it to be, it is like stepping out of Ecuador. But this
is still Ecuador! The restaurants are French, Italian, Mexican
and the likes. There is a pedestrian mall. Internet cafes
are easy to find. There are multiple travel agencies on every
block ready to sell a wide assortment of "adventure tourism"; rafting, hiking, horseback riding and hot springs
excursions, massages and other kinds of very Northern amusements.
After the evacuation is took almost a decade for the volume of tourism to reach the pre-evacuation levels.
|To its credit Banos has a beautiful setting and the architecture and scale of the town is in keeping with the setting. And there are nice touches that speak of Ecuador in town; markets, traditional shops, churches (which are lighted at night), a main square with a well maintained garden, schools and parks. During several hours of walking around town no one tried to hustle a tourist package on me and no children asked for any money or items (regalos). Banos is a pleasant haven, but I was ready to get back to a less refined Ecuador. To be fair, others in the group would have liked to have stayed longer.|
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