Our exciting weekend began by having to wake up around 4am, packing up the old Chevy Blazer, and then starting the 5-6hr drive to Baños de Agua Santa. Of course, because it was so early, Brooks, Kelly and I all fell asleep. At one point during the drive, I woke up to the sound of “Hotel California,” by the Eagles, on the radio, while the sun was starting to rise. The sky lit up light pink and gold, and I had to wake Brooks up so that he could see it too. The rest of the drive consisted of either going through a town or driving along farmlands and seeing hundreds of cows.
Once we arrived in Baños, 5hr later, we had breakfast at a local restaurant and then headed over to our hostel afterwards. Brooks and I were lucky enough to not only have our stay paid for by David and Kelly, but also get our own rooms. Brooks and I were both on the top floor and had a great view of the town. After we got situated in our separate rooms, we all met up downstairs, headed out into the town of Baños and began our excursions.
First stop was at one of the many waterfalls, where we rode in a “tarabitas,” or a cable car. This tarabitas took us over the river and to the other side of the waterfall. There, we walked across a cable bridge that went over the width of the waterfall. About 20min later, we made it back to the other side of the river and hopped in the car to go to the next stop. The roads in Baños are all cobblestone, hug the sides of the mountains, and are narrow two way roads. The mountains are coated with bright green trees and cascading waterfalls, some even falling onto the roads.
Our second stop lead to a “canopy” stop. There we were able to zip-line down a steep cable overlooking a river and few small waterfalls. Here, the zip-lining was set up differently, unlike when we were in Mindo. Our harnesses were placed on us backwards, so instead of sitting up straight, we had our stomachs facing down and our backs hooked into the cable. On top of that, our legs were also strapped in, giving us no movement in our body, other than our arms. There were two cables set up side by side, so Brooks and I were able to go together. The minute he and I were let go, he flew passed me and soared down the cable super fast. I, on the other hand, wasn’t heavy enough to go as fast as he did, which led me to stop 3/4 of the way down. One of the workers had to hike down and hop across a river in order to help me. He had to throw me a rope to grab onto, so that he could pull me back to the end. It was very scary, I kept thinking I would fall down and crush my face against the rocks in the river beneath me.
After going canopying, we were driving alongside the mountain and saw some locals on the side of the road that were doing bungee jumping. Brooks and I wanted to go bungee jumping very badly, so we stopped on the side of the road and did it with Kelly. David was too afraid to do it, so he watched us from another bridge across from us and took pictures. Brooks went first, then Kelly, and then I went last. The most difficult thing about it, was probably having to be able to climb up onto the ledge and stand up straight. I was worried I would slip and somehow hurt myself with the bungee cord while falling. Luckily I made it up perfectly, and jumped without any problems at all. It was by far one of the craziest things I have ever done. Even once I climbed back up to the side of the road, my legs and arms were shaking.
Our last stop before lunch was to a waterfall called, “Pailon del Diablo.” To get to this waterfall, there was a hike downhill that took about 15-20min to get to. There we went up a staircase and got up alongside the waterfall. Thankfully, Brooks and I had our rain jackets on, but Kelly and David got super soaked. We then walked around to a cable bridge that was in front of the waterfall, and after a few minutes we headed back up. The hike up seemed to be three times as long as the hike down, it was super tiring and very humid.
Soon after getting all sweaty and smelly, we drove back into town and went out to eat lunch. After lunch, David gave us 2hr to relax and free time to do whatever we wanted. During those two hours, I walked around town alone and was browsing through different stores. I don’t exactly know what I was looking for, but I really enjoyed being able to take free time to be by myself. I eventually found a café and ordered a cappuccino and a cup of stracciatella ice cream. I sat outside the café, while listening to the local radio blast from inside and just people watched. I saw tons of tourists walking through town, along with some locals selling fruit or making taffy, as one of the stores did across the street. About an hour and a half into my alone time, I took my time to walk back to the hostel and couldn’t have felt more at ease. I had no worries and was so happy to be in a beautiful town, surrounded by gorgeous green mountains and waterfalls. Once I got back to my room, I found a channel on the TV that was only playing music videos and laid in my bed those last 30min before heading back downstairs for adventure number four.
We took the Blazer about 30min up the mountain to a place called, “La Casa del Arbol,” where the swing to the end of the world is located. The drive up was on another cobblestone path, passing by different farms and a couple dozen cows. During this time, the sun was just about to set, so once we did reach the top we were able to see that happen. The four of us waited our turn for the swing, took photos, and climbed up into the treehouse. From the top of this mountain, we got a great view of Tungurahua Volcano, which had actually spewed lava and volcanic ash just the week before. We all enjoyed the view for a little while before we left for dinner.
Dinner was decided earlier on in the day, after I shared how much I was in the mood for pizza. We went to a recommended restaurant and it couldn’t have been any better. After pizza, I treated everyone to dessert at the same café I went to earlier. Once we stuffed our bellies even more, we walked back to the hostel, for another hour long break and some time to digest our food. David, Brooks and I met downstairs for the last time that night and headed out for some Karaoke. We were all pretty stoked to sing, but once we walked inside, Brooks and I immediately decided we didn’t want to sing. I guess we both felt like we would get a bit embarrassed. It was funny though, because inside the Karaoke bar were multiple booths filled with drunk people in there mid 30s to mid 40s. Once we saw that, we couldn’t help but laugh and seize the moment to belt out our favorite songs. After we each sang one song, we then left and walked the two blocks back to the hostel.
The next morning, breakfast was being held at 8am for those staying in the hostel. I woke up and showered, just in time to be down and ready for breakfast. Turns out I was the only one in the group ready at that time. Thankfully I knew enough Spanish to ask the woman at the front desk where breakfast was. She walked me outside, across the plaza, and down a side street to a tiny restaurant where I got free breakfast. At that time it was a bit misty out, but was nice to spend some more alone time. I ate a small roll of bread with a side of butter, blackberry jelly, some scrambled eggs, blackberry juice and some hot milk with coffee. On my walk back in the rain, I ran into Brooks, David and Kelly, and just told them I’ll meet them again once they finish breakfast. When they finished, Brooks knocked on my door, and said I should start packing up and be ready in the next 20min.
About 20min later, we were on the road again. David told us how we practically did everything you could do in Baños in just one day, so we headed back home to Minas early. Before you knew it, we all passed out in the car once again. A few hours later, we stopped in a town neighboring Quito for some lunch. While eating lunch, a street car race started going on in the center of town. Every few moments, you would just see a race car or police on motorcycles speed down the street passed the restaurant. Right after we finished, we ran across the street to start the last hour of the trip. While driving the last hour to San José de Minas, all the windows were rolled down, the radio was blasting, we were all eating mandarins and were taking turns spitting the seeds out the window. Even David was peeling and eating mandarins while driving, and all while going down a steep and narrow road. This road was very similar to the one to and from Otavalo, but instead was a two way road, so lots of caution was needed to be taken after every turn.
After that last stressful hour of being in the car driving back, we made it back to San José de Minas safely. Brooks and I dropped off our things and then headed over the the PL’s house. We hung out for a bit and got notified that there won’t be any seminar tomorrow because a large portion of the group is heading to Quito to go to the doctor. So now I practically have my entire day free tomorrow after teaching. And as of right now Vanessa and I have planned to meet up after lunch. 🙂