Gary and I have been starving for an adventure…even just a weekend get away. Now, 6 months after I broke my kneecap, I knew i was ready to test the waters so to speak, and take the plunge. And where best to go? Baños De Agua Santa of course, it’s the candy store for adventure travelers offering a plethora of activities such as mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, zip lining, repelling and white water rafting, to name a few.
So off we go for a quick weekender. We decided to keep activity light and just hike around this trip. And what a great idea..we usually hit the pavement running as soon as we arrive in Baños. We decided to stroll through the town and really look at the wonderful artisanal shops, sample the many sugar cane candy makers, to getting a caffeine buzz on all the sidewalk coffee houses.
As the day was coming to a close, we walked past the patron church of Baños; known for being made from rock of mother volcano Tungurahua herself. The doors were open, beckoning all, to come in and honor a loved one by lighting an alter candle, or step in the sanctuary where an organ plays grandiose music. Stop for a quick Sign of the Cross and pay reverence to the spectacular design of the interior. From gold leaf trim to relief paintings of Mary, Jesus, and the Saints. But, what really catches the eye, are the massive wooden doors and intricate carvings . Only a master could have created such works of art. Truly, seeing is believing.
Heading away from the church towards the waterfall and family park, we passed by a quaint place and I said to Gary, “hey babe checkout those old leather luggage pieces,” with that we realized we walked through time. The place named Huillacuna turns out to be a hostel, museum and art gallery. How cool we thought. We were greeted by a most friendly attendant who gave a brief history and private tour. She explained that the whole place was pieces of artifacts found throughout Ecuador during different periods of time. Most noteworthy though, were the collections from the town of Baños itself. Items from the first hair salon, first carpenters workshop, and first photograph studio! The collector is private and had been establishing his museum and art gallery for the past 30 years!
Our private tour was most informative with an incredible amount and variety of inventory and it was all labeled! They request a donation of $2 for maintaining those incredible artifacts and antiques. Just when we thought this place couldn’t be any more incredible; when in walked an older local gentleman who we could tell frequented the place often just by the familiarity of his interactions with our hostess. Being polite our hostess introduced us to Pedro Villafuerte, and it turns out he is a direct descendant of the master art carvers from the church! He explained how proud he was that his grandfather and great uncles all hand carved the wood without formal education (literally not even high school) computers, laser cutters, only the rudimentary carpenter tools which his family had donated. The same carpenter tools we admired on display. What a small world. I enjoyed my few minutes of time with this lovely gentleman and his family history as he sneaked a kiss goodbye he made me promise to send the photo, but he says,”I don’t do technology, come see me again. I’ll be around waiting.”
Ahhh…they don’t teach any of this stuff in school…so get out and…Travel on Dudes!
Article By Janis Bokar