By the time we arrived at the road named after Juan Montalvo, a famous Ecuadorian author and essayist, the dawn’s mountain mist had given way to gray morning light. The streets in Baños, Ecuador were mostly empty and quiet that Sunday morning as my husband and I made our way to the thermal pools. Without a map or a guide, our desire to get to the healing mineral baths served as our compass.
We headed in the wrong direction at first, waited for a bus, then walked uphill, then hailed the bus down, then walked uphill some more. As we walked through the center of town, I stopped often but not only to ask for directions rather to look at the amazing murals and graffiti along the way.
On one wall a sea-mother-earth goddess slept while her baby volcano spouted clouds of pink and purple. On another wall an astronaut family glowing pink held hands walking in one direction perhaps on a trek of their own. From faces to cryptic letters to aliens, the drawings told a story about life in the Northern foothills of the Tungurahua volcano. I felt a part of that tale if only for a brief moment – a quirky character wearing socks and sandals – trekking up a mountain, sometimes lost, but with a destination and purpose in mind.