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March 29, 2010

Meet Tungurahua

I wish there was something to do around here, and someone to do it with.

Oh, right, no, I keep getting lucky. The student that accompanied Patty with her field work in the morning, Marco, grew up in Banos and offered to take Lorena and me around in the afternoon. We didn't say no. So, he came to get us at 4 and returned us sometime around 8:30 or so. Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled.

Our first stop was la Casa del Arbol, or the tree house, an absolutely incredible spot with a great view of the volcano which was, finally, out of the clouds. The Casa del Arbol is owned and run by Don Carlitos, one of many vigias, or watches, who monitors the volcano in conjunction with the Instituto. The network of vigias has been in place since monitoring of Tunguraua went into full effect ten years ago, when the volcano became active after a rest of some 100 years. The vigias, for the most part campesinos, each have a radio and call in when there is substantial rain or anything else notable. Rain here is very important because heavy rainfall can result in floods of water and volcanic debris, called lahars, that come down valleys like fast-movies slurries of rock-laden cement, with the potential to wash out roads and bridges and any people or livestock that might stand in their path. Patty said the success of monitoring Tungurahua depends in great part on the vigias.


[We happen to arrive when Don Carlitos and a friend are solving a point of dispute over the map of Tungurahua.]


[Lorena.]


[I suppose this is why it's called the Casa del Arbol...]


[Inside the treehouse with our 'guide,' Marco.]

Next, Marco took us to a lookout with a view out over Banos, and then we headed down to the town itself to indulge in some pizza and beer. I thought that would be the end of it, but Marco took us to the foot of the waterfall of the Virgin, the waterfall that tumbles basically into town, which somehow already looks like a long exposure of a waterfall--stringy and smooth. Next to the waterfall is the main hot springs resort and next to that is an amusement park, because it's always a party in Banos. Banos is one of those tourists towns with tons to do--bars, clubs, hot springs, and an amusement park, plus mountain biking and rafting and hiking and, when Tungurahua's quiet, mountain climbing. The banner over the road welcoming people into the town is of people partying. So, right, there's an amusement park there all the time, a small one like what you'd find at a fair. Lorena's eyes lit up. She wanted to go on the ferris wheel. It was all lights and motion and did indeed look pretty inviting, but Marco advised against--a basket fell off some time ago and he didn't deem the ride safe. Instead, we went on the boat--you know, the ship that swings back and forth higher and higher until you lose your stomach and then lose it again and then lose it again. The boat was shaped like a dragon and the tickets (well worn, used and reused) read 'Dragon Chino,' or Chinese Dragon, but a fair-haired viking stood firmly in the middle of the ride and the seats read 'Sea Dragon' or something of the sort. Regardless, there were cages. Ever seen this? Because I haven't. There are cages at each end of the boat, so instead of sitting in the back row of seats (where you feel the most motion--usually), you can stand in the cage behind the back row of seats. Which is what we did. Turns out if you lift your feet up when you're at the highest point the ride takes on a whole new sensation. I was completely joyful and laughing and screaming until the boy in the back row opposite us changed from grinning to cowering behind his mother. Pobrecito. Then, I felt a little bad.

As if the ride wasn't enough to prevent any pizza digestion, Marco took us next to a park by a reservoir and dam that he and his friends like to go to and sit and chat and listen to music blaring from the car when there's nothing to do in Banos. In a stroke of genius, we went right to the carousel and spun ourselves silly and then challenged each other to hang upside down from the monkey bars. And with that, I was done. Oh, no, not yet, because there was still the long, windy, fast drive home. Poor belly. Pizza and beer.


[Lorena, Marco, and me, in front of the swingset. Photo: Marco.]

And I am SO STOKED that Sarah read this and commented--she was the originator of the 'the grossest thing that happened to me today was' game in the Philippines, out at the Mayon observatory, where she'd write a different tidbit every day to her boyfriend (now husband), Derrik. I think mine for the whole time there was a tie between two things on the same day--a cockroach on my pillow (in a corner is annoying, but on my pillow seemed like a personal offense) and stepping square onto a huge frog in the dark (but with sandals on, thank goodness). I also like to play the 'the stupidest thing I've done today' game, which on I think Tuesday of last week would have been 'start to open my sun roof to enjoy the fantastic weather without first clearing the snow off the top of my car.'

But back to gross. My gross thing for Sunday, March 28, 2010 was the spider in my bathroom. I am only thankful that I didn't step on it.

Posted by beth at March 29, 2010 4:28 AM

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Comments

hey, you should feel right at home with the spider in the bathroom! i seem to recall having to "save" you from simular large black spiders that often seemed to find their way into the bathtub in your bathroom.
--and you win a prize on the sun roof story!

Posted by: wilma - mother of beth at March 29, 2010 6:50 PM

Beth! How exciting, I love that you are blogging your trip. Silly me, I read it top to bottom and feel like you are home again :)

Posted by: Alyson at March 29, 2010 10:59 PM

Thanks for the shout out! I was recently telling someone about the cockroach on the pillow/stepping on the frog day. Starting a morning like that means it just HAS to get better.

Posted by: Sarah at March 31, 2010 5:17 PM

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