Andes to Amazon  
    Ibike Ecuador  
       
    Dispatch 7 - Banos  
 

 

   
    Beyond Salasaca both the traffic and the climbs diminished. 
  Ecudaor, Pelileo: jeans capital 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. Ecudaor, Pelileo: jeans capital, manicans wearing jeans
  Ecudaor, Pelileo: jeans capital  Ecudaor, Pelileo: jeans capital shops Ecudaor, Pelileo: jeans capital shops Ecudaor, Pelileo: jeans capital  
    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.

This gentleman (right) watching the street scene in Pelileo asked to have his picture taken.  It was taken and is now posted on the Internet.
 

Ecudaor, Pelileo: jeans capital, man along the street
  Ecuador: Rio Patate and Rio Pastaza canyons

Ecuador: Ambato - Banos road

Beyond 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.  Temperate and citrus fruit orchard are visible hundreds of feet below where the land flattens out near the bottom of the canyon.  As weEcuador: Rio Patate and Rio Pastaza canyons 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.
 
Ecuador: Rio Patate and Rio Pastaza canyons

Ecuador, Banos: flowers along the road

 

  Ecuador, Banos: main street 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 sirensEcuador, Banos: arrow showing evacuation route 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. Ecuador, Banos: main street
  Ecuador, Banos: travel agent, adventure tourism packages Banos is a tourist town.  While nowhere near as bad as I keep 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.

Ecuador, Banos: massage and hotel
  Ecuador, Banos: central square   Ecuador, Banos: church  Ecuador, Banos: main street Ecuador, Banos: church lighted at night
  Ecuador, Banos: traditional clothing shop

Ecuador, Banos: main square

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. Ecuador, Banos: central market stalls

Ecuador, Banos: restaurant

 
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