La Casa del Arbol

Just outside of the town of Baños sits a seismic monitoring station called La Casa del Arbol. It is a short drive, or a long hike to the view point, but regardless of how you get there so worth the trip.

La Casa del Arbol

As you leave Banos heading toward Puyo, there is a road that cuts off to the right marked with signs for Luna Runtun. Heading up the mountain on this road, there is another split – to the left is a dirt road that will lead you to the canopy tour and to the right the paved road continues toward La Casa del Arbol. About a twenty minute drive, winding and curving up the mountain will lead you to a grassy parking area with a small sign marking the place. We got out of the car and headed up the path. Then there was a cow.

Cow

I was raised in the country, but I don’t do cows. I stopped in the middle of the path, hoping that the cow, who Roland affectionately called Moorton, would move out of the way. The locals came by, telling me that the cow wouldn’t bother me, and walked on past Morton, speaking to him gently. Roland followed their lead, speaking calmly to the cow and arriving intact on the other side of the path. I giggled, trying to convince myself that the cow would neither kick me nor decide to poop in my direction as I passed. I did not succeed. I took the less travelled path down the side of the mountain off the path.

photo 2

The rest of the path was cow-free, so we made it to the top without further incident. As we traveled to Ecuador during the rainy season, we spent a large portion of the trip fighting the clouds at each overlook we visited. The same was true of this one. The lookout point from the house is supposed to be one of the best views of the Volcan Tungurahua, which was active and spewing the occasional volcanic rock during our visit. We only saw clouds and smoke, but the real reason we made the trek up to the house was to see The Swing at the End of the World.

The Empty Swing

Hanging from a metal pipe sticking out of the side of La Casa del Arbol is an old wooden swing that’s path takes you out over the edge of the cliff.

Me on the Swing

The swing is a wooden plank held up by ropes. There is a thin line with a carabineer you can attach across the front as a seat belt of sorts.

Roland on the Swing

Something about its simplicity makes the experience incredible.

Me on the Swing 2

Roland went up into the house to enjoy the view. I, however, would not go above the first platform.

DSC_3204

The swing is one thing, but the house is rickety. I know that’s not entirely logical, but I don’t really care. I still didn’t go in the house.

The return trip to the car involved a trip down the side of the mountain through a number of cows, but none in such close quarters as Moorton. I can’t wait to go back to this place. I would love to see the view without the clouds.

Advertisements

Terrifying Tarabita

On the side of the road from Baños, heading toward Puyo, there is a waterfall called El Manto de la Novia.  It sits on the opposite side of a large canyon from the road.

Waterfall from across the canyon

I pulled over when I saw the first of the signs marking the waterfall to ask about the cable car, also called a “Tarabita,” which the guidebook had described as “hair raising.”  We got lucky, or unlucky depending on the way one views it, and the man I pulled over to ask about the cable car turned out to know how to operate the thing.

DSC_2936

I must first say that the man moseyed out of the restaurant so casually that I thought he was there for lunch.  I asked my questions about the tarabita and he beckoned us toward it.  The tarabita was down a path behind the restaurant which appeared to be completely empty.  He said the car would take us to the bottom of the canyon where we could get out, walk across the little bridge, and go see the waterfall. When we were ready to come back up we should wave at him then get back in the car. I asked about buying a ticket, but he said we should pay him when we came back up. He looked slightly more official when he put on ear protection to run the machine, so we went along with it.

The ride to the bottom absolutely fit with the description in the guidebook. During our ride we heard several people screaming from above us. Looking up, we could see that there were a number of cables running across the canyon and the people screaming were ziplining across the canyon.

Roland on the Tarabita

We reached the bottom alive and went out to explore. We went across the bridge and headed toward the waterfall. There was a building that appeared to be a house with a little shop in it as well as a pool and some outdoor seating. There were three people in the middle of the path moving plants around, working on the garden. As we approached them, the woman who appeared to be in charge demanded money for walking across the property to the waterfall.  We were baffled as the man at the top had said nothing about it. After a moment of confused questioning, I gave her the two dollars and walked to the waterfall.  It was pretty, but you couldn’t get close to it.

Peligrome at el manto

We headed back to the tarabita and noticed a small sign stating the entry price that we had missed.  Glad I paid her and didn’t argue too much. We waved to the man from our cable car and he dutifully pulled us back up.

DSC_2933

Tarabita Ride Up

We paid for the ride when we arrived to the top alive and went on our way.  Our friendly conductor proceeded to pick up a plastic grocery bag with several styrofoam containers that looked like he ordered takeout and walk away from the empty restaurant and on down the road.  There was still no one else in sight near the restaurant, but the whole scene was so odd, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a random restaurant patron who just happened to know how to run the machine and wanted to make three bucks on his lunch break.  It was not the safest I’ve ever felt in a piece of machinery, but it seemed to function properly and he seemed to know what he was doing. We made it top to bottom and bottom to top again, so I have no complaints regardless of his employment status.

We later found out that we picked the only tarabita that runs top to bottom of the canyon. The others run across and I’m certain give a fantastic view of the canyon, the river, and the waterfall.

Pailon del Diablo

Our Ecuadorian experience began with a Parillada (BBQ) at the home of a family friend. A parillada is a traditional charcoal grill that slow cooks the food and gives it an incredible flavor.  It was hands down the best food we had the whole time we were there.  We stayed with my friend several times throughout the trip, using Quito as our home base for travelling north and south in the country. We had these adorable children to play with (and later catch the flu from) throughout our trip.

MariPaola and Valentina

From Quito, our first trip was south to Baños. Yes, Baños like bathrooms.  I assume the name is derived from the natural hot spring baths the town is popular for though I never asked.  We borrowed a car from my friend to make the trip. Borrowing the car made everything easier and at the same time quite complicated. The signage in Ecuador is about the same quality as any other Central or South American country I have ever been to. My friend described it by saying, “There may not be a sign marking the road, and if there is, it may be behind a tree.”  Then there’s always the emergency evacuation route sign that suggests you will be running from Godzilla.

Godzilla Street Sign

Baños is a fun town that caters to a backpackers and adventure seekers. You can find tours in Baños to do anything that involves a risk of harm to your body or your life, though all completed under the guise of a safety harness.  However, it onto our itinerary when I found a picture of this on Pinterest.

El Pailon del Diablo

This is my photo of the gorgeous Pailon del Diablo. Pailon del Diablo is a waterfall with this stunning stone staircase sitting in the mist of the bottom of the falls. The waterfall is about a thirty minute drive out of town.  There’s no sign marking where to turn, but the people are friendly, so I just stopped and asked. Unfortunately, by the time I asked I had driven past it by about fifteen minutes and a river. It is near the Rio Verde. If you reach Rio Negro you’ve gone too far.

Getting to the waterfall is about a twenty minute hike from the car, but so worth it. There is also a crawl through a damp cave involved in getting to the top.  Once you have hiked up to the top of the waterfall, you can visit the bridge that you see in the background of the picture of the staircase. It gives a lovely view of the whole waterfall.

Waterfall

DSC_2980

Me on the Bridge

On the way down to the falls you may judge the people you see huffing and puffing, seated along the side of the path. Don’t. If you are anything like me, you will look like them sooner than you think. The hike back is when you begin to remember the elevation that your body is not used to and its impact on your breathing… that’s what I blame for the level of total windedness I experienced anyway. In the end the journey was worth it. I survived and have pictures to prove it. I do think they could make a good business off t-shirts saying, “I survived the climb to Pailon del Diablo.”

The Return to Reality

The past few weeks have been amazing! Roland and I toured two countries, Ecuador and Colombia, over a two week period. We have added some awesome memories and stories to our lives as well as accomplishing six of the goals on my 101 Things list.

Standing on both sides of La Mitad del Mundo, otherwise known as the Equator line running through Ecuador.

La Mitad del Mundo

And a coffee tour in Colombia, just to name two.

Hacienda Guyabal

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting pictures and stories chronicling our South American tour.  I’m excited to share the adventures and misadventures. Since we have returned home I have accomplished converting all of the nearly 900 photos I took and have begun the process of sorting, deleting, and editing. I am glad to be home, but I didn’t miss the weather. It has snowed another five inches since our return on Saturday. Dreaming of the 70 degree weather I left behind as a I head back to work tomorrow.

On another note, Ava stayed with my parents while we were away, so my house had a short break from destruction. This morning when I went to the store, I blocked Ava in the kitchen with two baby gates (one above the other, standing about four and a half feet tall). When I returned from the store, she was out roaming the house, both baby gates still in place. She has apparently added scaling fences to her Houdini bag of tricks now. Luckily she only destroyed a box of tissues, a few pens, and a packet of soy sauce which has stained the futon. Will have to develop a new plan for the full time return to work. I still have one day’s reprieve as my roommate, a teacher, has a snow day tomorrow. That leaves about 36 hours to develop an Ava proof plan!