I did the walk from Ambato to Banos
Hi there everyone
Well it was time for the great migration of divout catholics in responce to Easter from Ambato to Banos. It is an hour away by car or bus. I had heard of this and felt I would like to do this just for the experience. I wanted to see what it was like to do a walk of devotion/penance. Okey dokey, I sometimes have good ideas and sometimes bad, I am not sure what it is right now...... I first went to Ambato by bus, for the most part going to Ambato from Banos is up hill all the way, so you'd think coming back would be a snap, right?
Believe it or not, there were venders already at 4:00 already setting up, starting cooking etc. I decided to do this trek alone. I have to say that I was a little scared going alone but I had heard that their would be alot of people there and police as well and of course all the support staff that usually helps out at these events, and there were in droves. They also close this road at about 5:oo to ensure roads safety for the enourmous volume of people. Going to Ambato on the bus was like reviewing the difficult spots and trying to think what a good character building experience this would be and thinking it was too late to turn back as this was probably one of the last busses allowed through.
I was told to go to the cathedral first and go to Easter mass. Then we would go from there to start the walk. I was mistaken, I was sooooo impressed with the inside of the church. I waited here for an hour for the mass to start and I took that time to write some thoughts, about the church and what I wanted to accomplish in the next while, things that I kept forgetting that I wanted to do. It was a good time and I was in good company. There were many people there who were longer there than I was and praying the whole time. The devotion was amazing. something that I don't see very often.
It was a mother Mary and child theme based with beautiful skies and lighted arches, fairly modern in golds and light blue.
I sat through 2 1/2 hours of spanish religious ceremony, without understanding a whole heck of alot. Lots of standing sitting, kneeling and pretending to sing when I didn't have a sheet of music. Still it was very nice, and everyone is soooo intense in there belief. But yikes,,,,,, so long. I was starting to get a little concerned because I was told that the walk started at 6:00. Soooo at about 8:30, I found out I had to take a taxi to where the start was. Some friends/people we happy to find out that I would be going on this adventure and some were kind of concerned for me. But I am here writing now so no worries.
Okay, now for the story. I get out and there are literally hundreds and thousands of people before me. All walking in one direction. So with great confidence, off I toddle. No problem only I thought that Ambato was smaller than it was. It must have taken 2 hours to cross that part of town. Now for fun let us add a little rain in the form a heavy rain. Fun. I am the only white person there and I am the only one wearing shorts. Everyone else is wearing jeans. I would think that would be rather uncomfortable as we all know what wet jeans feel like. I am sooooo happy for the shorts. Still off we toddle and firm and great speed. After a while and further down the road, at one point about half of the group leaves off in another direction. And I head down a great road to Salaca a small indigenous town. Again venders, everywhere selling not only food, H2o and other liquids but also thin rain jackets. So there I go and suddenly a huge rejoining of people. I have to say there must have been thousands of people walking it was shocking. It was a very short distance and then there was Pelileo the "jean" city and what I had always thought of as the half way point. Was I ever stupid. I now start to have very sore feet and an aware for blisters forming. I stopped to try for water but it turns out that the new water bladder contaminated my drinking water so I had to buy another bottle of water. I really looked at what people we selling. Yuck there was sure alot of greasy food. I can't imagine eating all that grease and walking at that clip.
These people are much shorter than me and they are really moving, swishing really as the plastic jackets move through the congested crowd and rain. There were young people and old, children, babies and strollers, there were also bikes and skateboards and even stilt walkers. Everyone was moving fast. Sooooo offfffff we go. I was moving on. Feet sore, and off I go because there was no way to do anything but go forward. They closed the roads, the only transport is your feet. Once you start you have to finish on your own steam. Sooooo through the dark you go and go and go. At times, I felt I just had to go on and numb out my body to carry on and I thank god I had the kids music to distract me.
Rachelle (my daughter) called several times to see where I was and how I was doing that was kind of nice but I still had to go on. I found that going down hill really rubbed on those oh so sensitive blister.
I finally got to the last,huge and final large hill. There was a concentration of venders and a funnel of tired people. There was a large bridge and then up that nasty hill. The rains started again only stronger and boy was I thinking I was foolish to be there when I could be nice and warm in my bed, pain free. Off I go and on and up the hill. There is a tarabita (gondola)
there, that I had always though that it was close to town, well it was not. Because distance it relative to the mode of transportation. In driving time it is greatly different that driving time. So on and on these thousands of people went in both infront of me and back of me. Some of (most) of the college kids had been drinking and I think that they had a good idea as some of them were even running, they probably couldn't feel any pain. But all I could manage was plodding on. Much different from my fast pace in the beginning.
Every so often we pass through the villages and the time it takes to pass them seems forever. Normally I would thought all those lights to be beautiful, now I am thinking of them as destinations and hurdles. Things I can't wait to pass to get closer to Banos.
I finally saw lights and it was another village, a village that I recognize as close to Banos but it still seemed forever away in the dark. There are not any real cities or villages from Banos to Pelileo so it is the great divide for a walk like this. But every so often and fairly frequently there are those venders like becons of light and inspiration to go on and get to the next one. So on we plod as we pass through the night by the thousands, all energicly walking along.
So there we go, on and on, and I see more lights, I think that it is the last set on lights before Banos a suburb of Banos, and boy those blisters are really calling my name and I am thinking of the payback of discomfort that I am going to have tomorrow. Tomorrow it will be all over and soon it will be all over, keep going. I look around and I am not the only one feeling the effects. Finally we start to enter Banos and there is a chaple for the virgin and a huge number of people there praying in silence. It reminds me that most of this journey was quiet, except for the odd set of college kids that brought their huge boom boxes that take two to carry them.
That is the last hill left and I see the lights of Banos, but still they seemed so far away in the night. So on we continue to plod. I see people resting more frequently by the sides of the road and several people crying, weeping either in pain or exhaustion. I felt like it too.
When I started into town there were people literally sleeping under the awnings and anywhere, under plastic and blankets trying to stay dry, too tired to move.
Last year, when I saw all these people, I was told that they were just a bunch of drunks and how stupid this was etc. Now, since I have done this and especially on the last part where I divided from this enormous crowd to take a quiet and solo walk home at 4:30 in the morning, did I realize the purpose of such a religious journey, it does connect you closer to god, it humbles you, and create that penatence feeling. When I struggled through my doorway and into the kitchen and had popped more advil (I had the forsight to take advil with me in case, and I did use it thankfully or the trip would have been all the more unpleasant.)I almost weeped.
This morning was trying and more advil popping and a cup of stong coffee. I have stairs in the house which must have been funny to watch me walk like a hundred year old woman. There are huge and numberous blisters on my feet and my ankles feel like shattered pieces of wood. I don't feel the desire now to do it again next year...... Been there done that. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't try another pilgrimage again. It is really shocking what comes up emotionally and how stong we all really are.
I am still agog in the volume of people involved with this walk. There must have been 5-10 km of people filling the road. I am sure this isn't quite the religious experience that it once was but a trial of inner strength. So I have found my inner strength and feel closer to god and am really enjoying sitting around with my poor damaged feet elevated. Tomorrow, I will elevate again, but I understand that Banos's big day is tomorrow and I would like to see that, but I will call a taxi to do it. I hope I can anyway otherwise I am painting.
Me and my blisters say good night.