Baños to Cali: Into colombia.


Baños is a place for tourists. Ecuadorians and Gringos alike go there to get a hot bath, go bungee jumping, whitewater rafting or to rent a mountain bike and cycle downhill to Puyo. It seems like the big cycling attractions are always downhill (the big hitter being "The Road of Death"). Its a shame as, truth be told, some of my favouirte cycling has been uphill.
I too headed to Puyo. I hadn't yet been to "The Jungle" and I fancied cycling downhill for a bit. (I know, I know, what goes down must come up...) Also, I had been told that the road from Baños to Puyo is a great cycle ride. And it was. Along the way there are many waterfalls and the scenery is never less than dramatic.
Puyo is a medium sized modern hot and sweaty place full of shops selling flashy jeans and people sitting at tables eating hamburgesas and wearing shiny jeans.
I resolved that it was probably too much of a detour to go further down into the rainforest (plus there are insects down there I'm told) and so I rode out to a zoo, of which there are 100s, in order to see some jungle wildlife. I feel a bit weird about zoos, but anyway I went. The place I wound up at had monkeys, turtles, parrots, crocs and some tigrillos (miniture tigers). All very nice. Most of the monkeys just run free around the place. Gringo volunteers were working in the zoo which I imagine must be a fun way of spending a few weeks, and really I think that would be the length of time required to get any enjoyment out of a place like that, or even to suss it out. Putting together a zoo like this would cost very little. Just knock up some cages from bamboo and chicken wire, drive 3 hours east, fill your van with animals, drive back, put up a sign, and charge people like me $2 for a 20 minute walk round. If you call yourself an "Animal Refuge" instead of a zoo, it makes people like me feel better. But in order to remain in existance they need customers and so they need animals, so the "refuge" aspect is only really wordplay. I suspect.

Anyway, I got back on the hot and humid road and cycled to Tena through countryside of strange trees and cobbled together shacks. In Tena, I stayed with a guy called Jorge and his father, called Jorge, and tried not to get confussed. We ate fantastic breakfasts, had fried fish and yuka dinners and went to a kareoke. Then it was time to head on.
From here the weather took a turn for the worse, and as I climbed back up into the mountains, it was cold. A stop in a small mountian town proved a lucky find as the hostal had a small scalding hot swimming pool in a basement.
I pressed onwards through Ecuador's hilly north, crossed the Equator and crossed into Colombia. The change is noticable straight away. You are no longer in an "Andean Country" but in a "Caribbean Country". People are more relaxed and friendly, you get given gifts of fruit on a regular basis and salsa-pop thumps louder than ever from every house.

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