I had to look at my calendar to see the last day of the last time I blogged, and it was literally only a week and 2 days ago. This weekend, a few of us volunteers reunited in an awesome little place called Baños. Why is the whole calendar thing relevant? Well, being away from these wonderful people felt wayyyy longer than just one week.
Before I tell you about how supercalifragilisticexpialidociously awesome Baños is, I would like to share with you that last Tuesday, CJ, Jacob, this random kid whose name I forget, and myself went to trivia night at Finn McCools, and we won second place!!! I also ate a McFlurry last week, and it was 10x more delicious than McFlurry’s in the states because they mixed in hot fudge and carmel.
Friday afternoon, Gonzalo (my host dad) dropped Jacob and I off to the Quitumbe Bus Station, which is South of Quito. We purchased two tickets for our 3 hour bus ride to Baños (which by the way, only cost $7), and boarded seats 4 & 5 on one of those fancy travel buses (for lack of better description). Might I also add that Quitumbe is one of the nicest bus stations I’ve seen. Well done, Quito, well done.
Three & a half hours passed by pretty fast with a combination of snacking, napping, listening to music, talking to Jacob, and playing with Pablo. Pablo was the little kid that was sitting in front of me on the bus. Basically, we became best friends.
Once we reached the bus terminal in Baños, I walked up to a “safe” taxi (which we learned is one that has orange license plates, a legitimate Taxi sign, and a registration number).
“Cuanto cuesta para Ambato y Ricardo Zurita Carrillo?” I asked the taxi driver, confirming the price so he wouldn’t take advantage of me being a “Gringa” by charging me more later.
I asked him how much it would cost to go to the hostel, but he didn’t seem to know the street names I was referring to. It was pretty dark by this time. I wasn’t afraid because fortunately I was with Jacob, but my instant reaction in my mind was, “Shit did I write down the wrong address?” But in fact, it was the correct address. Fortunately, I remembered that the hostel was called “Hostel Backpackers,” and he had heard of this place.
The hostel was literally 3 minutes away from the bus station. I’d never stayed in a hostel before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We were greeted at the gate by one of the hostel owners and his two dogs, Pequeño y Canela. The common room of the hostel was instantaneously comforting–couches, a pool table, multiple book shelves, a variety of DVD’s, a fridge filled with delectable desserts, a bar and kitchen, computers with wi-fi, music playing in the background. I was impressed. And excited. Jacob and I began the check-in process, and while we were about to pay, Jacob realized he left his money and ATM card at my house before taking the bus.
Naturally, Jacob’s instant reaction was, “Fuck.” As an optimist, my reaction was, “No worries man, we’ll figure it out.” The receptionist was kind, allowing us to pay while checking out. We started walking towards our room once we received our room keys and towels, and I heard this loud “shhhhhshiiishh”-ing noise within the darkness. That’s probably not an accurate sound description, but you get the point. I looked straight ahead and there was a massive cascada (waterfall). RIGHT ACROSS FROM US!!! It was difficult to see the beauty that surrounded us within the darkness, but I knew I was going to love Baños.
Our room was so unique–a beautifully painted ceiling, brick walls, bunk beds that had blankets with Chinese characters, a window view of the waterfall. After freshening up, we headed to the common room to eat dinner and find out touristy information of things to do in Baños. Zach, Nathan, Abby, and Brianna were arriving the next day (Saturday). Jacob and I spent the night exploring the central town of Baños where we coincidentally met up with our friend Martin, from Denmark, and his European friends. We ended up hanging out as a group, and it was really fun!
Our hostel stay included free breakfast, which included croissants, fresh blackberry jam, bananas, tea, juice, and coffee. Jacob and I began to plan what we wanted to do after eating breakfast Saturday morning. Nathan, Zach, Abby, and Brianna weren’t arriving till early evening, so we had a lot of time to kill. While walking around, I noticed each little street shop had someone twirling/smacking/doing weird things with this sticky substance, which I remembered was taffy. Baños is known for their taffy, which is delicious, but I only tried one small piece. The thought of multiple people touching that same slab of candy throughout the day, in the open air, repulses me (I’m a bit of a germaphobe). Anyway, we ended up going on a Chevas Bus Tour, which took us to a few of the different waterfalls in Baños.
I kid you not, it was one of the most MARVELOUS experiences of my life. Pictures will never do it justice! Our first stop was at a canyon, where we took a cable cart through the canyon. I thought this was breathtaking until we reached our last stop. Our last stop during the bus tour was in Rio Verde, at a waterfall called Pailon del Diablo, or the Devil’s Cauldron (the name behind this waterfall is actually very interesting in case you’re curious and want to research it). It’s a 100ft waterfall located within a forest-type environment. It’s basically what I’ve always imagined a jungle to look like. The rain and cloudy overcast definitely added to the experience, in addition to ruining my white converse (TOTALLY WORTH IT). The entrance for Pailon del Diablo was $1/person. Best $1 I’ve ever spent. We crossed a hanging bridge that cradled over the waterfall/surrounding area, providing the most mesmerizing 360 degree view. The first hanging bridge leads to a second hanging bridge, which leads to a set of stairs…and more stairs, which lead to you standing right next to the water fall. I could feel the velocity of the waterfall and hear the thud of it hitting it’s who-knows-how-deep surface as I stepped closer towards it. This was beyond breathtaking.
In talking about how ridiculously beautiful Pailon del Diablo is, I forgot to mention that I jumped off a 100ft bridge. It’s an activity informally referred to as “puenting.” Basically, you are harnessed to some ropes, you stand on a ledge, and then you jump in free fall. It’s different from bunjee jumping in that once you jump, you don’t keep bouncing. You just jump, and swing. It was AWESOME! Another thing to check off my bucket list. If you want to see a video of me doing this, click here!
Once we finished our tour, we found a Mexican restaurant where we ate lunch. I ate a chipotle burrito, and I must admit that it’s without a doubt the most delicious thing I have eaten in Ecuador thus far. After lunch, we headed back to the hostel, just in time for Nate and Zach! Soon after, Abby and Bri joined us. It was soooo wonderful being reunited with them. All of us had a ridiculously fun night hanging out in Baños, staying up late sharing crazy stories, dancing around in our hostel room with DJ Abby. It was spectacular. We also discovered that Zach sleep talks, a lot, and at one point during the night he yelled (yes, YELLED), “Ciao is the fucking same in French.” Never, ever, going to forget that.
Originally we all planned on going canyoning on Sunday (repelling down water falls, etc), but we decided to save that for next time we go to Baños. Abby and Bri wanted to go to the hot springs, but the receptionist told us it would be too crowded during the day. So we decided to visit Casa del Arbol, also known as the place with “The Swing at the End of the World” which is basically a swing on the edge of a cliff that has no safety measures. Unfortunately we couldn’t ride the swing because government has banned it due to it’s “dangerousness.” Still, it was such a marvelous place to visit, giving us a 360 degree view of the beautiful Baños. It was also a marvelous place to see Volcano Tungurahua or “Throat of Fire.”
After lunch at Cafe Hood (a delicious restaurant that made specially made a chocolate milkshake for me), we headed back to the hostel for an afternoon nap. Bri and I decided to watch Identity Thief with our new Australian backpacker friends while everyone else napped. Zach had gone home earlier that day, and Nathan left after napping since he had to teach the following day. Jacob, Bri, Abby and I headed to the hot springs, which was closed until 6 pm. I wanted chocolate and Abby wanted juice (but lowkey both of us wanted both, as usual), so we came across this place that made delicious frozen chocolate covered bananas. We also bought Snickers, Milkyway, and lime flavored banana chips. Perfect decision.
We walked back to the hot springs, only to see that the line was masssssive. I was already hesitant to go in. The thought of that many people, together, in one body of water. EW. But I paid $3 and went in anyway. They made us purchase these ridiculous hair caps, which everyone had to wear. My first reaction: this water is brown…brown like all these people gathered, took a shit, and their poop mixed in with this water to form this color. Fortunately, I discovered that the brown color was the natural color of the hot water from the volcano, and the brown existed because of the variety of minerals in the water. There were 3 different main pools. The one we originally tried to enter was about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It was impossible to enter, so we went upstairs to the bigger, less hot hot springs, which was filled with a ridiculous amount of people. I refused to enter since I was repulsed by the amount of people that were in there.
I guess the only two cool parts about the hot springs were:
1) It’s hot water that is coming from a volcano. That’s pretty freakin awesome.
2) It’s right next to a waterfall, so it’s pretty scenic/romantic, all that mushy stuff.
Anyway, there are a few more details/events from Sunday night/Monday morning that I will spare adding because I think I’ve extended this far enough. I’m back in Quito now, and ready for the Ecuador vs Uruguay soccer game this Friday! Point is, Baños is marvelous, my new friends are even more marvelous, and I’m falling more in love with Ecuador each day. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to read my story, for whatever reason! Hopefully it kept you somewhat entertained! Adventure is out there, folks!
Till next time!