Climbing up the Hill
Yes, the sorry Americans climbing up the hill in our getup.
It was a fairly easy and short (only 3.5 hours) bus ride from Quito to Banos, minus a small lapse in judgment to drink too much water and attempt to use the bathroom. The bathrooms on the buses in Ecuador are labeled "Women Only" (in spanish of course) which cracks me up. I think all three of us girls decided we had to go at probably the worst time on the whole trip. It was a dirt side rode, extremely bumpy, try to imagine having to hold onto a handle the entire time you are in the bathroom. Not Easy. Especially when you cant sit down either. Anyways, you get the picture. Ladies (and gentleman - because you have no options) just hold it.
The bus station in Banos was pretty small and it was easy to figure out where we were in the small little town nestled in the mountains next to an active volcano (It seems I continue to put myself near potential natural disasters a lot these days). We had a recommendation for a hostel, so we decided to go check it out and see if they had any availability. Plantas y Blanco is in about every
guidebook possible, but I'll give it the thumbs up. Its clean, has a great rooftop patio with wireless and an amazing breakfast (seperate from your room but totally worth it) and the rooms are quite cute as well. We checked in and then set out to talk with some tour operators and figure out what our next plan would be. We walked into a few that were near some of the main squares in the center of town and they were reputable enough, but we had heard we should venture off the path a little and go check out Jose and Two Dogs. (http://josetwodogs.com/) These guys are definitely the real deal. We talked with Jose for a while, a true local who told us our options and then we decided to book a day of canyoning for the following day.
This discussion also prompted us to reschedule our Jungle adventure and actually head further into El Oriente before booking a tour. Jose gave us the name of a friend who runs tours out of Misahualli which is an hour from Tena, so we planned our next days to take the bus and head to the jungle.
Starting down a Canyon
Me heading down a waterfall
was wonderful, we ate a nice and eclectic dinner at Casa Hood, who's menu still puzzles me. I had Thai Food, but the menu consisted of a random assortment of Vegetarian, Italian, Thai, and local specialties. We all had Sangria to boost which just made the assortment even more confusing. But none-the-less, the food was delicious and I needed a good asian dinner after dining on solely Ecuadorian cuisine for a good while. We finished off the evening by drinking a bottle of wine that I had toted for 3 weeks in my suitcase from Mendoza. It was worth the wait for sure, minus a little cork fiasco.
The next day we got up early, had an amazing breakfast upstairs at Plantas y Blanco. Eggs, homemade bread (from the bakery next door), jams, juice, coffee/tea, all for about $3. I'm sure we could get cheaper, but man, it was good. Then it was off to our canyoning adventure. We showed up and paid our $40 each. We had decided to do the more advanced version of the 1/2 day. We couldn't do the full day tour since we were only 3 people, we would need 4 to book that
one. We took off with our fantastic guide Paulo who I believe was made for canyoning. We set off a little out of town and stopped at a small wooden hut where we were instructed to go change. He suited up the not so well built Americans in wetsuits, a waterproof rafting shirt and some Keds looking shoes and toted us up a hill. We were dying in our outfits, so it was a welcome relief when we finally reached the first waterfall for our canyoning adventure.
Canyoning is basically where you rappel down different waterfalls in a canyon to reach the bottom. Its pretty entertaining because you have to navigate different slippery rocks, waterfalls pushing constant water in your face, normal rappelling techniques at the same time. We started at a smaller waterfall and he hooked us into the rope and off we went. We slowly progressed down a few more waterfalls until we reached a HUGE one that basically went straight down. I stood, hooked into the safety line, on a small log that had been connected to the rock as he hooked me into the rope and then I was off. Really it was exhilarating and
Where Banos gets its name. The natural hot baths in town
overall, I only managed to slip once leaving a couple of battle bruises. The end was fantastic as we slid down some rock slides into the last small pool before heading back down to change and go back into town. I would highly recommend this activity.
We sat down to get some lunch that afternoon at a place that had surprisingly good tacos and watched some of the World Cup match. I believe it was Chile and Spain? Then we took some time to head over to the baths in town (banos) the reason for the city's name. We paid about $3 and headed in with all the locals. We focused our attention on the hot, relaxing pool where most people were quiet, but it was truly hot. We had to get out after a while and I spent most of the time moving back and forth from that to a freezing cold natural shower to cool off. Overall definitely worth the five minute walk. I hear at night they are supposed to be really nice, probably less children too.
The evening was filled with a fabulous Argentinean steak/chicken/more meat than you could possibly eat or share between
three girls dinner next to our hostel. The restaurant was recommended by our guide Paulo. Then we headed out to the small bar street to enjoy a beer and some music at Jack Rock Pub. It was a great evening except a downpour had come in and we were pretty exhausted from the day, so we headed back to get some sleep.
The next day we woke up and had another amazing breakfast and then I caught up on email and such before we headed to the train station to catch a bus to Tena and then Misahualli (pronounced nothing like its spelled). More to come on our four day jungle adventure!
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