This blog entry is the first in a series about a river guide’s endless summer in Ecuador. The weather in the "Avenue of the Volcanoes" is more spring-like than summer. Temperatures are constant due to the proximity to the equator and determined by altitude. I have spent the past couple of months at an apartment located in Baños de Agua Santa. The elevation here is roughly 6,000 feet. The green mountains and snow covered volcanoes provide an excellent view. Yet Baños is small enough to walk anywhere in town.
This adventure to Diablada Pillareña 2018 in Pillaro began with a nice walk to the Baños bus terminal with Holly and Ivo. We had a slow start in the morning but managed to eat an Ecuadorian breakfast and catch bus to Ambato by 11am. Bus fare to Ambato was just $1.25 each. The ride involved several quick stops and local vendors hawking all matter of goods to passengers along the way. Venders catching short rides on bus to sell items is rather common in Latin America. Upon arrival rather than find the next bus terminal at Ambato we opted for a taxi ride to save time on our way to Pillaro and the festival. The taxi ride from Ambato to Pillaro cost $10.
Our taxi dropped us off near the central market in Pillaro. The parade would also follow a route in the center of town by the market. The taxi saved us plenty of time to explore the town and we started with the central market. The market had fresh fish, chickens, beef, and pork in addition to colorful produce. The selection of fruits and vegetables was vast and smelled fantastic. Spices were also available in a variety of forms. The prices were all very reasonable. We also found the central park nearby with snowmen made from large tires painted white and adorned with hats and faces among lush green plants and spring like tropical weather.
Dancers in Devil Costumes
The parade with dancers in devil costumes and lively music was really high energy. The crowds throbbed with the sounds. Vendors were plying the crowds selling umbrellas, snacks, various toys and more. More than a few participants and spectators were passing and sharing bottles of alcohol and wine skins. The dancers often took to the sidewalks and mixed with the crowds while cracking bull whips. The dancers and musicians represented all ages. See the video at the top of this page for a quick clip of the lively music and dancing.
After a fun afternoon at the parade we walked to the bus terminal in Pillaro. Along the way Holly found a street vendor selling masks and bought a small one. This was a rather interesting transaction because the vendor was surrounded by policia. However the policia were quite friendly to the point of joking. At the bus terminal we saw several taxis and inquired regarding a ride to Baños de Agua Santa. All the taxi drivers called for a nearby friend who offered us a forty minute ride to Baños for just $20.
Rule number one: check the taxi for seatbelts before accepting a ride. Holly and I bounced about the backseat with no belts during the wild mountain ride with twists and turns. The driver’s preferred music was quite lively and fast paced much like his driving. According to google maps the trip from Pillaro to Baños de Agua Santa should take seventy minutes. The excitement of the taxi ride at times reminded me of whitewater rafting the big rapids on the Upper Ocoee with lots of thrills and luckily no spills! Ivo and Holly were plenty excited by the rapid acceleration and tight turns as we raced through the mountains and canyons. To sum up her feelings on the taxi ride Holly said, "We should have taken the bus!" ¡Estamos volando sin nuestros cinturones de seguridad!