Micah: Unmitigated


Not just another weblog


July 11th, 2010 at 15:36

It is an amazing sight. From the abbreviated summit of the 16,500 ft high Volcan Tungruhua, a dark gray smoke billows into the sky and trails off into the distance. It is entertaining, it is humbling, it is momentary.

I caught my first glimpse on Monday, after a short hike with the American I met in Quilotoa (I’ll call him Guy) and a girl from Seattle we met on the old dusty trail. (She’s a former Underdog Sports participant, of the minigolf variety.) We sat at Bellavista for over an hour, talking and staring at the peak. Girl said it was the most action she had seen from the volcano during her 4 day stay.

blowing off some steam

blowing off some steam

Back in town, Guy and I parted ways with Girl, checked out a hanging bridge over Rio Pastaza, and tried some Curry Vindaloo at the local gringo joint. The curry with bananas was ok, but the roaming local band that stopped in to entertain us was better.

Guy headed off to Quito and a flight home the next day. It was good to talk with someone in my same age group and of similar interests. He studied Math in college as well and recently fell into a 6th grade Math teaching job in Nashville. Not his desired position after getting a Doctorate in Archeology, he is like me, still looking to get on a path.

Tuesday and Wednesday both revolved around World Cup soccer matches. Market lunches, short hikes, TV, and fast food dinners filled the hours.

Thursday: With no International sporting events on the magical picture box, I was free to roam the hills and try to get closer to the action. I wandered through the small farming village of Runtún and stumbled upon a viewpoint known as “La Casa del Arbol”. As the name implies, the property contains a tree house but more importantly a swing. I do love swings.

me on swing

me on swing

Clouds blocked views of the Volcano, but there was a 30 second window which was timed nicely with an exhale from the rock. A rumble was also heard and felt, reminding me of it’s proximity.

The highlight though was meeting the 3 American women who strolled up to the vista after their bus broke-down. A mother/daughter pair from Memphis and a friend from Atlanta. They arrived with the owner who upset them with his foul odor, firm hugs during photos, and free beer (they prefer cocktails). I showed my pics from the swing and convinced most of them it was safe. Then, I was handed cameras and given artistic freedom while they nervously relived their childhood.

With darkness looming, I joined them in the jaunt along the gravel roads back toward town. They were staying in a sweet hotel on the hill above Baños with the best views around. Finding it was a bit tricky though and required help from locals and a trusting walk down a dirt trail. I enjoyed listening to the teasing that can only be shared between close friends and family, something that is hard to find on the backpacker trail. It reminded me of home.

With my hostal another 45 minutes down the hill in Baños, I said goodbye to the friendly trio at their casa. Then made a quick stop at bellavista for one more view of some spewing ash, before racing darkness into town.

Friday: Slept most of the day under the influence of allergy medicine. Some places give me minor trouble, but not near as bad as back home.

Saturday: Crossed the bridge to hike up the other side of the valley. I had a high point in mind, but wasn’t sure how to get there. Luckily, the quiet road took me to a vista with benches. After 30 minutes of fog and rain at the top, sun and near perfect views of the volcano. The perspective from farther away was better than expected, allowing me to see the old lava path on the western slope and the full shape of the geological wonder.

taking in the view

taking in the view

Today: Watched the sloppy World Cup final after some market ceviche. I like the way they do this dish down here in Ecuador. They put fish in a bowl, pour in a tomato soup with onions, give you a lime to squeeze in, and a bowl of popcorn to put on top. Add condiments to reach your desired spice level and enjoy. More interesting but less filling than the standard market almuerzo: chicken soup, plate with beef or more boiled chicken, rice, salad with beets, and potato cakes (seems to be a Baños thing, which I love), and a glass of juice.

I am now in the process of booking Spanish classes in Manta, via email. Looking forward to living in the shared student apartment and cooking for myself. Tentative start date is July 26th.

Tomorrow, the plan is to arrive in Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, and say goodbye to the Andes. Sun and beaches are next. Necesito mi bronceado vuelta

E = 56

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