I passed through Riobamba a while back and remember thinking that there was more here than I could see on an overnight stop and I should return. I was wrong.
When I came through the first time I was on my way to Cuenca, and, anxious to get there, I made it a very quick stop. I remember wandering around in the cold looking for some dinner and I stumbled into a place called Peri Peri Chicken. It was warm inside. I was also lucky in that they had some really good grilled meats and home-made french fries with a nice salad and some homemade sauces.
My second stroke of luck was finding a very sweet little hotel across the street from the train station, hence its name, Hotel Estacion. It’s run by a family and has that feel to it. The price is right, too, at $20 a night for a single room. On each floor there is a sitting room at the stair landing, and on the 3rd floor there is a working fireplace. You can go out on the rooftop and get photos of the mountains and the city, which is especially nice if the volcano Chimbarazo is making an appearance. Today she has been hiding behind a bank of clouds, but I have hopes for the morning, before I leave.
So, I have returned to find that I really missed little the first time around. There are some old buildings worth a look, and a couple of markets. But having been to Otavalo and having been in Cuenca for 2 months, I have seen some splendid markets. In Cuenca I have almost reached my fill of splendid architecture.
I decided not to waste the rest of my day in Riobamba after having gone to the markets and had a good wander. So I was advised to go to Guano (yes, I had a second take on the name, “Guano is the excrement of seabirds, cave-dwelling bats, pinnipeds, or (in English usage) birds in general.“), which is a touted artisan town close by. I walked to yet another market, this one more interesting than the one on the tourist maps, and got the green bus to Guano. The trip on the bus was great. I sat with a 3 generation family as the mother of the infant breast fed him and they all shared an ice-cream cone. The bus took me to the central plaza of Guano. I looked around and thought that I must be mistaken, this could not be the town center of a much praised artisan town. I wandered for a bit and came back and asked in a store if this was the town center. Yes! Of course! It was 1:00 on a Saturday afternoon and most everything was closed. There were a few gift shops, but it was all pretty much ticky-tacky. A popular item was small donut shaped pillows which made me think maybe there was a hemorrhoid epidemic in town, or the bus rides were getting to people where it hurts. I went past an amusement ride for children, but it looked of despair. The local church has an ancient looking building attached proudly boasting its inaugural year of 1950. There was a relief of a dog on the side with a mouth-full of thatch. I was not understanding this town. Maybe it needs a name change?
I grabbed a bus back to Riobamba. It was packed stem to stern and there was no more standing room. The bus assistant kept yelling for us to go up to the second level, which didn’t exist.
After I arrived back I went to the Peri Peri Restaurant for the second time on this trip, having not found another of interest. I had the $3 almuerzo (set lunch) and headed back to my room for a long evening. Fortunately in the morning I will be on an early bus for Banos, where the food is excellent and there are hot bathes to recover from today’s folly.