Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Exploring Baños

Friday, October 28, 2011

The tour company I was going to arrange canyoning with said we were going to leave at 1 or 2. I woke up Friday morning and still hadn't heard from the Belgian girls, so was a little concerned. But I got up cheerfully and with the purpose of going out to find breakfast I left the hostel and began to explore the town.

I spent a good two hours that morning wandering around. I would turn a corner and see something else worthy of having a photo taken! Interesting buildings, a sign that amused me, colors that anywhere else should not exist in architecture, hangings and jumpers and hats galore! I bought a couple of braided bracelets from an old man at the corner of the street my hostel was on. I think they're part of the traveler's dress code or something, so I had to have them. One is mostly purple, the other is black and white. I'm quite fond of them! :) The old man spoke no English, but I was able to pick up that his daughter lives in the US... goes to school for music in Chicago and he is very proud of her.

I kept having to remind myself that I am going to Otavalo next weekend. The same things will be there, only for better prices. So I held off doing most of my shopping here in Baños. I walked up and then down a giant hill. Down to the waterfall out next to the thermal baths. The waterfall feeds a long wash station. And I saw two women there with their pile of clothes, scrubbing away in the stone sinks.

There was a lovely park near the middle of the town that I kind of stumbled upon while walking around. It's not the big one right by the main church, but this one had some lovely views and even a treehouse you could climb up and perch in!

"Run this way if the volcano erupts!" I think I loved this sign more than any other I have ever seen. There were other signs, too. "This way for hiking." "This way for swimming." The town knows that it is a huge tourist destination, and the signs are exceptionally helpful in pointing out things to do and places to see.

OMG! The graffiti and murals on walls in Baños are completely amazing! This one just amused me the most, but some of the others were pure works of art (though, the aliens came close to being my favorite). They also really like to splash about how awesome their town is. *smiles*

Just an example of some of the wares people sell all over the place here in Ecuador! Markets everywhere sell just about the same things. I am holding off for Otavalo, though. I want to hit the giant market. (I also don't want to carry around with me piles and piles of awesome stuff!).

Yep, here's the easiest waterfall you can walk to within Baños proper. If you grab a mountain bike or a buggy you can really push out further and see some spectacular scenery. This particular day, most of my group ended up getting the bikes and spent the day exploring that way. I am happier on foot.

And here are those two ladies I mentioned, washing their clothes.

I got back to the hostel around 9:30 and still hadn't eaten breakfast. So I popped up to the Secret Garden dorm room and knocked, to see if anyone there was up (and home!) and interested in joining me for breakfast. Alas, they'd mostly all already left together. So I decided to just go up to the Terrace Cafe and relax up there with my journal.

I ran into Hayden and then Caitlin upstairs as they were returning and then heading back out for various activities. I think it was Caitlin who told me that they'd all made plans to head over to the thermal baths when they got back from their bike ride. So, since I was still going to go to canyoning and didn't know when I'd be back, a note would be left for me downstairs if they'd returned from there already with indication of where they went next.

Still no word from the Belgian girls. I was getting a tad concerned. Really didn't want to go by myself. For one thing, it costs more. For another... it's just not as much fun! So I decided to go out and explore some more. Left a note for Rani that the tour lady wants to confirmation by 1, so I'd be back at the hostel at a quarter til. Then I took off to explore again.

Along the way I ran into Anja, who I think was still recovering from her fall on Wednesday and so was just taking it kind of easy. We heard music out by the big church and went to check it out.

These guys posed for me, and I also got a video of them playing. I'd asked around earlier about all the decorations adorning the town and had found out there was a festival going on. The reason for the festival got lost in translation, but I understood festival! Anja and I got to see part of the parade and enjoyed the smiles being thrown our direction by the crowds around us. The parade wasn't like the kinds of parades you think about here in the states. No floats or giant balloons. Just a lot of people carrying flowers, and at the front a platform with a statue of the Virgin Mary.

At this point I was getting hungry again. And I still hadn't tried cuy... Ecuadorian staple otherwise known as guinea pig! Anja wasn't going to partake in the cuy, but she was willing to look around with me for a place selling some. However, by the time we did find a place I sort of chickened out. I think if I am going to eat cuy I would rather eat it in pieces, not as a whole. I know there a bunch of places that will serve it that way. So I need to explore Quito more in order to find one of them before I leave!

12:45 came around and I went back to the hostel. But still no Rani and Annelies! So I went to tell the tour lady no dice on canyoning, and I went off for a massage and spa treatment, instead! 1.5 hours... full body massage, facial, and pedicure for $20. Ohhhhh man that felt good! The girl giving me the massage was very careful around my poor injured pinkie and the KILLER bruise on my right hip. I think she's probably used to gringos coming in covered in crazy injuries like mine. I mean, come on! The place is famous for all its insane adventure tours, after all! For my pedicure I chose a bright pumpkin orange to paint my toenails, in honor of Halloween. *smiles* I knew the paint job wouldn't last long, anyway. I was wearing close toed sandals and had plans to go to the thermal baths later. But for that brief period it made me giggle happily. :)

Came back to the hostel and got an update on the baths situation. Turns out they close it from 4-6, so we were all going to head over at 6. So I took my computer upstairs and there met Julien, young guy from Holland traveling on his own for six months. He was going the same direction as Caitlin and Anja for the big festival in Cuenca, so I made sure to introduce the three of them so that they could work together to arrange a hostel there (which I'd heard would be a bitch because of the festival). I wrote in my journal, shared a beer with Julien, and generally just enjoyed the quiet time til people began trickling in from their day's adventures. We also met Flora, from Paris, and invited her and Julien both to join us as well for the evening. A few girls Thomas had met before also joined us.

So at 6 it was on to the baths. Josh and Hayden were our experts here, since they'd been there the day before. It's $3 to get in. You get a bin and change into your bathing suit and hand your bin of stuff to the admin office. Take a quick shower, then decide where to go.

Downstairs were two baths. The OMFUCKINGHELLTHISISGOINGTOFUCKINGKILLME hot pool. And the similarly screaming out cold pool. Upstairs (and outdoors) were the big hot tub temperature poor, and the cold swimming pool-style temperature pool. We spent some time downstairs, then most of us went upstairs to soak in the hot pool upstairs. The hot pool was just so hot it was making me sick to my stomach. So coming down a few degrees felt wonderful. The biggest problem I had though were my glasses. The heat made them steam up I couldn't see a damn thing. So I just slid them up on top of my head. Later to be a HUGE mistake.

When a couple of us decided to check out the other cold pool, I couldn't bring myself to just throw myself into the cold water. An old Ecuadorian man had to talk me into it! He even kindly held my glasses for me. He and his friend also made some very nice comments to me about my tattoos. I have been pretty amused. Old men are the only ones to say anything about them to me. But always positive comments.

So here's the order of the pools I experienced. Hot-Cold-Hot-Cold-Warm-Cool-Warm-Cool-Ho
t-Cold. I had my glasses all the way up to that final Hot-Cold section. I have no idea what happened to them during that period, but they disappeared off my head and I didn't notice until I got my stuff and went to get dressed. Anja looked around a bit for me, but no dice. If they got lost in the Hot pool, there would be no finding them. The water is very murky and you can't see. And it's so fucking hot that you have no chance of going in and just diving to the bottom of the pool to feel around for them. BOO! I'd included "spare glasses" on my packing list, but of course I completely forgot them despite having a list. I would come by in the morning to see if anyone found them/turned them in. And would otherwise just be glad that I am not completely blind without them. Things are just a little fuzzy and it'd hard to see details. But I'd be fine.

We all trooped back to the hostel and to showers before decided we'd meet in the Terrace to figure out that night's plans. Conor and Emer had left a note for us downstairs. They'd come by around 7, but since no one was here they went to eat on their own but said they'd be back at 8:30. So we knew to expect them up there and not leave immediately.

Ok, here's part 1 of the group! Flora, Conor, Emer, Hayden, (Alex or Bea), Caitlin, (Alex or Bea), Josh and Thomas.

And Part 2! Ryan, Julien, Ari (not part of the group, but we'd met him in Quito and were hanging out with him that evening), and Anja.

Dinner was to be the Mexican restaurant up the street. More laughter. More stories. We became amused by the poster on the wall with rules for children (no playing with the candles, no playing with the sugar bowl, no going to the bathroom and playing with the water, etc) that didn't say ADULTS couldn't do those things. After playing with the candle and getting my fingers filthy I had to go wash them, and was amused even more by some of the posters and signs in there.

Over all, dinner was delicious and we all managed to finalize plans for the next day. Julien was going to come with me to zip-lining. YAY! 10am. The lady said we'd be back by Noon or Noon:30, so Ryan was going to wait around for me to get back and then he and I would grab an early afternoon bus back to Quito. After dinner they were all going to go out to party again. And again I chose to head in to bed early. Definitely not a night owl. I'm okay with that. I was relaxed, and happy, and excited for my first experience with zip-lines that would happen in the morning!

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