Liquid Hot Magma


This blog entry about the events of Sunday, November 09, 2003 was originally posted on November 10, 2003.

DAY 22:  Navid had moved to my hostel since his other was too noisy, so it was easy to find him for breakfast.  We played a quick game of generic Jenga before looking for the other thermal baths of Baños on the outskirts of town.

Following the Lonely Planet guide, we continued walking down one street where we should see a footbridge that leads you over a creek to another road that brings you right to the facility.  On a map, everything looks flat, but in reality the road goes up a mountainside like a street in San Francisco.  It lead us up into the suburbs and eventually out of town and on a dirt road with calves, cows and bulls.  Although I had heard that bulls are color-blind, I wasn’t about to take chances with my bright red shirt.

The trail went nowhere and we decided to head back down the mountain.  We ran into a gringo who also had the Lonely Planet guide and also went the wrong way.  We told him that the directions must have been wrong or something and so he tagged along with us.  “Thank you for doing that exercise for me,” he said.  “I would have gone all the way up if you hadn’t told me.”

His name was Olf — no relation to the alien puppet Alf — a Swedish man perhaps in his 40s.  (Being from Sweden, there’s a possibility he could have been related to the Swedish Chef muppet, which could in turn made him sort of related to Alf — or perhaps Kevin Bacon.)  Olf was backpacking through Ecuador for a month and was also interested in checking out the Piscina al Salado, a bigger facility than the Piscines de la Virgen in town.  We eventually found it, with its multiple tubs of thermal water at different temperatures.  Everyone was playing Goldilocks to find the one that was “just right” — including this old Spanish guy who would bounce back and forth from the cooler ones to the hottest one.  In the hottest one, he’d just sit in the corner and whisper to himself an orgasmic “Aye ya yaih!”  I tried to avoid him as much as possible.

ON THE WAY BACK DOWN INTO TOWN, we had a clear view of Tungurahua, the nearby volcano that once erupted and evacuated the city in a mad panic in 1999.  Right before our eyes, we saw it begin to smoke on a clear day.  (picture above)  After lunch with Olf and Navid, I walked back to the vantage point in the suburbs with my video camera to capture it on tape.  I stood there, totally mesmerized by the dark plume it was making, and nearby townspeople were looking at me as to think, “What, you’ve never seen a volcano bellow in your hometown? Feh.”

When I got back to my room I realized they might have been looking at me strange because I had accidentally put my shirt on backwards in the changing room and my tag was flapping in the wind.

THE SOUNDS OF DRUMS FILLED THE STREETS, so loudly that I could hear it from my room.  I ran out to see what it was and right down the main road was a parade.  I love a parade!  I followed the parade route and walked alongside the participants who were sporting team uniforms.  It led into a big school courtyard where some sort of pep rally was going on.  Hundreds of students were there in uniform with parents and relatives.  I snuck in and blended in with the crowd without any questions and before I knew it I was standing along side them for the national anthem and applauding whenever they would applaud.  However, it got pretty boring for a while so snuck out.

I ran into Olf and having nothing to do, we went out to a sidewalk cafe for beers.  An empty bus blasting salsa music from its speakers cruised by.  “That’s the bus for the volcano tour,” he told me.  He had gone on it the night before and recommended it since it was only three bucks. 

A BOY CAME OFF THE BUS and approached us with flyers.  He looked about nine years old, but after the usual Spanish 101 questions, I learned he was actually twelve, his name was Pablo and that he was from Baños.  For a twelve year old, he was a turning into quite the salesman, determined to get a sale, yet not too pushy.  He’d make a good used car salesman one day, or perhaps even a guy that sells camcorders at Best Buy.  Navid joined us and Pablo was determined to get another sale.  He even brought over a photo album of the different tours that are available and talked non-stop about each photo.  I interupted his sales pitch when I pointed to a girl in the album and asked him if it was his girlfriend.  He paused for a quick moment smiled and told me no, probably because his was at the age where girls were “icky.” 

The bus came to pick us up and we hopped on the roof while most of the other tourists stayed inside.  Pablo’s friends Juan and Alberto hopped on too and we cruised through the moutain roads in the nighttime air playing music, waving at passerbys and dodging tree branches.  Pablo remained a complete businessman and pointed out all the sites to see along the way.

The driver brought us up a mountain a look out point of the volcano not much better than the one I had in the afternoon, although at night you could see distant specks of red lava glowing in the darkness.  The mediocre view of the volcano was complemented by a specatuclar view of the city

The guides made a campfire since it was a chilly night and served us tea spiked with rum.  For kicks, I was going to try and sneak some of the spiked tea to Pablo, but he had already snuck a small cup which he shared with his friends.  However, they seemed to be more excited looking at themselves on my camcorder with the night vision on.

Soon after, the female tour guide got everyone’s attention and gave us a little lecture on the volcano, completely in Spanish.  A British tourist had a question that the guide didn’t understand, and seeing that I had been talking to Pablo in Spanish all night, she asked me to translate.  So I did: 

“I only pretend to know Spanish.  This entire trip I’ve just been pretending.  I have no idea what she just said.”

“Gracias,” the guide thanked me.

ON THE WAY BACK DOWN the mountain road, Navid, the boys and I were on the roof again, this time standing up, pretending to surf.  I don’t know if it was the alcohol in the tea, but the three boys just started getting all hyper, dancing to the music and making each other laugh.  I kept watch ahead and warned them for branches and wires.  At first Pablo wasn’t into the dancing, but he ultimately couldn’t resist.  Eventually they all started getting really hyper, took their shirts off and waved them in the air like Ecuador had just won the World Cup.  I was glad to see Pablo not be a salesman and just be a kid again.

Back in town, I gave Pablo a dollar as a tip and told him to share it with his friends.  Navid and I went out to a food stand down the block — the only place open that time at night — for a snack.  Pablo, Juan and Alberto walked by to say hello.  I saw that they had already used my dollar on ice cream.

Next entry: Crossroads of Ecuador

Previous entry: The Gorge

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Comments for “Liquid Hot Magma”

  • helado por un peso para los tres amigos…..maybe pablo can be your own ecuadorian short round…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/10  at  01:54 PM

  • hey erik- I’m in the internet place checking out the blog- Pablo just walked in! showed him the pics of him & buddies dancing- got a good kick out of them!- also acted pretty surprised- don’t know if he remebers the whole thing or not! It’s still raining pretty constantly in Ba?os (1:30 Pm), so I said hell with the biking- gonna head to puyo once the rain lets up a bit. later dude

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/10  at  05:10 PM

  • Hm- getting young boys drunk so they’ll dance around with thier shirts off - since when are you a member of NAMBLA? smile

    Posted by dunlavey  on  11/10  at  08:04 PM

  • Dang - Navid really DOES look like Gung-Ho from GI Joe - it’s uncanny. If you keep travelling with him and I’m going to start calling you Storm Shadow.

    Posted by dunlavey  on  11/10  at  08:09 PM

  • Hah! erik’s no storm shadow. He’s more like a Quick Kick or Jinx! (0_o)

    Go Joe!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/10  at  08:16 PM

  • That bus ride must have been a nice finnish to the night…

    It’s amazing the skills that children are able to aquire at such a young age.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/10  at  09:09 PM

  • If you had the chance to watch young, drunken, shirtless boys dance on the roof of a bus… WOULD YOU??

    Posted by Matt  on  11/10  at  10:01 PM

  • BE HONEST NOW, how many people out there made that picture of the boys twirling their shirts around their desktop picture?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  01:04 AM

  • haha…your shirt was baliktad (sp?) !! that’s terence’s style.

    you should have taken it off and twirled it around w/those kids… they sure did look happy.  great photo!

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  02:22 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Crossroads of Ecuador

Previous entry:
The Gorge


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