I dragged myself away from Cuenca, and spent a few days in the spa town of Banos. Oh those spas! There are thermal baths on every corner (not quite, but you get the picture). Banos is built on the side of a volcano - an active volcano. About once every five years residents evacuate the town by wading crossing the river (or queuing for the bridge) and running up the opposite mountainside. Which makes it a bonkers place to build a town - except rumour has it that the Virgin has blessed a waterfall and nearby thermal baths (heated by magma bubbling not so far below). Local people travel for miles for the delights of sitting in warm water until they look like crones.
Did I join in? Of course. I can’t say I felt touched by any blessing from a Virgin, but flopping about in warm water (even with raindrops prickling my face at one point) was fun. And sorry, I didn’t take my camera into the pools - though did see someone drop her phone in the water while trying to take a selfie.
But I do have photos of the waterfalls. This is just one of them (I think the Virgin left this one alone, but it’s still spectacular).
From Banos I had one day in Quito before heading for Mindo and the Cloud Forest. I’ve not been there before and so the main road to my lodge was a bit of a surprise.
Once safely on dry land I could begin to enjoy just how different this environment is. It’s high (high enough to be in the clouds) but because it’s so close to the equator the forest is dense and lush. It’s hard to photograph, given all that green, but this will give you an idea.
I had four days (and a birthday) here. It’s bird-heaven - from tiny fluorescent hummingbirds to huge turkey vultures. There are yellow birds and turquoise birds and scarlet birds - and you don’t even need to trudge miles to see them (I spent one morning in a hammock, watching the birds in one tree - and lots count of the numbers I saw).
And not just birds. There are orchids - huge rude orchids and tiny orchids with a huge smell. Leaf-cutter ants parade across pathways; soldier ants march for miles. And, one evening, on the way back to my cabana, a tarantula stood guard on the path. Should I take a photograph and risk upsetting it with the flash? I decided against, gave it a wide berth, and made sure the door to my cabana was firmly shut!
It’s all gone so fast! By the end of next week I’ll be home - but not before a visit to the huge market it Otavalo. I’m not a shopper, but even I’m tempted by stalls like this!