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Swinging Monkeys

The swing at the end of the world
Cuenca => Baños
To safe some time to make it early into the Amazon Basin the monkeys had decided to go to Baños by busses. First they had to take a bus to Ambato, then from Ambato to Baños. Ambato is the provincial capital of Tungurahua, and everybody who travels to Baños has to change buses here. The first trip takes around four and a half hours. Even though the monkeys left Cuenca late at night, they arrived to Ambato very early in the morning.
Once Bimbino had to leave the bus everything went so fast that still half sleeping he realized that he had forgotten Bambina on the bus only when it had already left the terminal. He had to wake up and react quickly. Searching for help Bimbino encountered directly the right person. One phone call and a couple of minutes later the man had already made a connection to the bus driver. Bimbino had to get a taxi and drive behind the bus to catch it on the way to Quito. The only problem was that the monkeys had only $6 left, but a friendly driver agreed to do the bus hunt for 6 bucks only. It took around half an hour to catch the bus and to get back to the station but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that Bambina was safe. Lucky Bimbino!
It was 6 o'clock in the morning. Totally tired, with empty stomachs, nothing to drink and not a single penny in their pockets the monkeys understood that the only possibility to make it to Baños was by hitchhiking. A long walk through the still sleeping city of Ambato was exhausting. After about an hour of walking the monkeys put their thumbs out. They got their first lift quickly but it was only for a couple of hundred meters and they were still far away from a good hitchhiking spot on the street to Baños. Once they had reached such spot it took less than 5 minutes to catch a direct lift. Around ten happy teens and their parents were eager to share their breakfast with Bimbino and Bambina: potato chips and water melon liqueur. What a delight for their empty stomachs!
Baños de Agua Santa
Baños is one of the top travel destinations within Ecuador for a good reason. Despite its small size this town has a very cosmopolitan feeling. Nice bars, good restaurants, first class possibilities for outdoor and adventure sports and, like its name is already indicating, thermal water spas. Baños is located in a small valley on a cliff above the Pastaza River. Around the valley high mountains and snow covered volcanoes are protecting the city. ...or are they threatening it? Signs indicating safe zones in case of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes can be seen all over town.
The first thing the monkeys had to do in Baños was solving the money issue. Usual challenge was to find the right bank. Most of the banks give no more than hundred dollar out at once. And if you have to pay 7 dollar commission for each withdrawal, it sucks! And all the countries the conditions are different. For example, in BBVA Continental in Ecuador you can get only hundred US dollar at once, in Peru you get three hundred. So you have to go to each cash machine to find out which gives you more money. In Baños it was easy to do though. The down town is small, so the monkeys didn't have to walk a lot.
When the money issue was sorted out the next challenge was already awaiting the monkeys. All efforts to contact their Couchsurfing host in Baños had been without success till then and the guy went on ignoring their phone calls, SMS and Emails. Not wanting to spend the whole day waiting for a response of their host Bimbino and Bambina decided to contact another Couchsurfer who had invited them over for a visit. Maria (who’s contact the monkeys had received from Ampari, their host in Quito) was a little bit busy, but she welcomed the monkeys anyway.
Maria is an US-American woman in her early 60s living alone in a nice big house with a little garden. She produces handmade soaps, so it was no wonder that the monkeys got the chance to witness the process of soap production. Bimbino was a little bit confused that Maria didn’t use any human fat from plastic surgeries. Was everything he had learned about soap production from "Fight Club" in fact wrong?
At the soap factory Bimbino and Bambina at the soap manufactory.
Melting fat Vegetable fat has to be melted.
Bimbino is curious Bimbino was closely following the process.
Maria at work Maria is ready to work.
The chemicals react Mixing the chemicals is not a trivial task.
The temperature has to be right Constantly measuring the temperature of the reaction is important to avoid extra work of scrubbing exploded soap from the walls.
Just veggies inside, melted vegetable fat Looks just like simple oil.
Blending process All chemicals and oils have to be blended together at the end.
Maria liked our monkeys instantly and told them they could stay over for the night – if they would promise to clean the floors in the house the next morning before leaving.
As the monkeys knew that they would only have one full day in Baños everything was about making decisions. What to do today in this wonderful environment? The answer was quickly found: The Swing at the End of the World. Maria had to go into the city so she gave Bambina and Bimbino a lift to the foot of the mountain on which the mystic swing was located. The monkeys had their thumbs out in the moment they hit the road and found a lift instantly. The pick-up turned out to be a fake hitch meaning the monkeys had to leave a tipp to the driver. Nevertheless the ride uphill was very pleasant with stunning views into the valleys and the surrounding mountains, and walking would have been too exhausting.
The Swing at the End of the World is a place that was as magic as the monkeys had imagined. A place where the time stands still. Located on the top of a mountain high above Baños the swing hangs on a lonely tree under a small tree house. Swinging here is like a journey into infinity. Once you start getting into motion you feel like flying as you don’t see the ground anymore but only the mountains with their white peaks and the endless blue sky. A place where one can easily get lost for hours.
Hitchhiking up to the end of the world Some people don't like to be photographed, but other are happy to join always smiling monkeys.
Bimbino - swinger Bimbino takes a swing into the infinity.
A top of Tungurahua A glimpse of the Tungurahua volcano peak among the clouds.
La casa del Arbol The monkeys have found their dream house for retirement.
Swinging Monkeys Don't try to repeat it! Only little monkeys can swing together. The swing is too small and fragile for two big human asses.
Once back to the downtown the monkeys said hello to a snowmen on the main square which looked so very different from all snowmen they had seen before.
A fake snowman Has anybody ever said that snowmen have to be made from snow?
Specialties in Baños are caramel suckers made just in front of you from sugarcane syrup. Once you have tasted this delicacy you might end up being addicted for the rest of your life. …but be careful, if you are too greedy the caramel will make your teeth glue together so you cannot open your mouth anymore.
A local caramel factory Sweets add more happiness to our lives.
Bimbino tasting the caramel Especially Bimbino - a new addict is happier than ever.
In the evening while walking around the old town the monkeys came across an amazing shop. It was like a miracle: loads of spices on the shelves, various nuts, chocolates, coffee grades, etc. If you missed some flavor getting to know South American cuisine, or want to cook something special, or want to buy a good souvenir, you have to visit this place. The shop is called "Aromé". To their big surprise Bimbino and Bambina found a shelf full of Maria's soap in this shop.
The magic shop You can find all kinds of spices and rare ingredients in this shop.
The soap for sale Aromé is one of the outlets where Maria sells her handmade soap.
The day passed so quickly. Back at Maria’s place the short rest of the day was spent cooking and eating. Bimbino and Bambina went to sleep early to have a good repose before hitchhiking further towards the Amazon.
Advice from Bimbino and Bambina
Where to stay:
With Maria. A great person to meet and to get inspired for new adventures while listening to her travelling stories.
Where to go/hang out:
The city center is full of bars and pubs. Unfortunately Bimbino and Bambina didn't have time to check them out.
Where to eat:
Choose an extraordinary recipe, go to Aromé, buy necessary ingredients, and cook at home.
What to do:
The Swing at the End of the World. You can hire a taxi there and back with an hour of waiting for around $20, or hitch for $1 each way.
Visit the market with all the caramel industry.
Multiple hikes.
All kinds of outdoor and adventure sports.
Follow the adventures of the Travelling Monkeys! More stories to come soon...
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