Adios Ecuador: Banos, Otavalo and Quito – Another installment in the never ending honeymoon saga…

After an awesome time in the jungle, our next stop was the little town of Banos which is famous for its thermal baths and outdoor excursions. To get there from Lago Agrio, the town on the ‘border’ of the jungle, we had to catch a ten hour overnight bus. Since neither of us like to dwell on the negative, we’ll just say that it was pretty much the bus from hell and we managed about an hour of sleep the entire night. Lucky for us, Banos was a little slice of heaven. We checked in to Plantas y Blanco at about 7 in the morning and we were let right in – didn’t even have to wait until check in time. After a quick shower, we headed up to the roof top terrace and had one of the best breakfasts we’d had in a long time. They have a delightful bakery which makes WHOLE WHEAT bread and ALL BRAN muffins (if you couldn’t tell by the caps, we were stoked since this is unheard of in these parts ;-)) served with fresh fruit, juice, and eggs. Surprisingly refreshed, we decided to take to the streets for a stroll and book a few activities for the next two days. Banos is also known for its reasonably priced massages and pampering packages, so that was definitely on our (achem, my) list. We were also keen to hit the rapids and do some river rafting, so we quickly booked both activites – massages for that day and river rafting the next. We also needed to find a good internet connection for my job interview which was the next morning. After a successful morning of ‘errands’ and a massage each, we grabbed lunch and headed back to the hostel to change for a hike. Banos is a town surrounded by huge mountains – providing quite the backyard for hikers and canyoners alike. Just outside of town, we found a trail that from the descriptions would be a 2km hike to a cross which overlooks the city. Little did we know that the 2km stroll we expected would be a vertical climb in the rain. It was really good fun though and we welcomed the cardio! That night we grabbed dinner with our friends Andy and Sven who we met in the Jungle and had Banos as their next destination. We were proud of ourselves for a jam packed day, but come 9:30 it was definitely time to hit the hay.

The next morning after brekkie, I had my third job interview which went well and this time the internet connection was much better so they could hear me properly! (I’m hoping that turns out to be a good thing 😉 ) I actually have my final round interview from Colombia on Wednesday which means I will have had an interview from three different countries after this! Quite the accomplishment hahaha!

After the interview it was time for rafting!!!

The sky was looking ominous – we were in the rainforest afterall – we could tell the rain was definitely going to come thundering down at any minute. We had a nice small group of five people and our guide Eduardo was actually on the national rafting team for Ecuador. He had been to the Sydney Olympics, the world champs in S. Korea, and all over the world rafting for Ecuador. The water was really cold, and I was lucky to have a full length wetsuit (which couldn’t be said for everyone unfortunately). The rain started to pour down on us, making the rafting seem even more intense – it kinda felt like we were in a Hollywood mystery movie where the boat goes missing and you never find out what happened to the people..dun dun dun! The rain was really warm compared to the river water which had drenched us in the 3-4 grade rapids. It was so much fun and we both didn’t want it to end. Because of the rain, it took nearly two hours for us to get back to Banos (rather than 40 minutes like it did on the way out) so after a quick shower, we grabbed Andy (and Sven who had been on the river with us) and headed out for dinner. We also planned to meet Eduardo out at his favourite bar, so after some grub we went there for free shots and a few bevvies…well a few too many in the end! We danced all night and had a great time.

The next morning wasn’t so fun though, with all of us struggling from the pure sugar cane alcohol shots (achem POISON) that Andy so generously bought us 😉 Thanks again for those! Unfortunately, Andy had to head back to ‘Wisconsin’ so was leaving Banos after brekkie. After he left, Ben and I went to check out the thermal baths in town. They had two baths – one that was relatively luke warm and filled with people (so we steered clear of that) and one that was nearly boiling. They also had a ‘shower’ of refreshing waterfall water. To imporove circulation the idea is to go from the hot to the cold, and back again. The waterfall was beautiful and Ben and I both found the icy cold water extremely refreshing, but neither of us could get all the way in the boiling bath ( I made it up to my belly button somehow but that’s as far as I could get it was so hot, and Ben managed up to his knees…just)

The next morning we hopped on a bus to a little town north of Quito called Otavalo. We arrived around 3pm, checked into the Hostel Valle de Amanacer, and headed straight out for a hike. The mountains there are beautiful and after all day on the bus we both wanted to get some exercise. After a great two hour hike, we showered and headed out for dinner.

Otavalo is known for its Saturday market, which brings the town to a halt. The main square and all of the streets leading to it, fill with locals selling everything from ponchos, handicrafts and shoes, to silver jewelry, Panama hats, and alpaca blankets. We wandered around the markets all morning and decided that the alpaca blankets where our favourite…we actually bought two…a gorgeous aqua one and a beautiful pink one that matches Siena’s hair perfectly ;-). It is beautiful. And yes…it can be said we bought ‘his’ and ‘hers’ alpaca throws for the house ;-). You can picture the two of us freezing in the San Fran cold wrapped in alpaca blankets on our couch. We grabbed a quick bite just to try some of the delicious looking pork that the street vendors were selling. It was one of the best meals we’ve had.

After that we hopped on a bus to get back to Quito. When we arrived at our hostel that Andy had recommended (Villa Cayetano). There were a few people at the bar watching soccer. Ecuador was about to play Venezuala in the America Cup, so we settled in for a few beers while we watched the game. It was really fun, and the owner of the hostel introduced us to a bunch of his ex-pat friends. After the game (which they lost unfortunately) We then headed out for dinner and a few drinks just the two of us.

The next morning, we were up and off to Mitad del Mundo…the middle of the world. It is where they first ‘discovered’ the ecuator. They have the original monument and the new more accuarte Museum about 300 metres north. We decided to give both a go. Here is a shot of us at the real equator, where we saw some interesting demonstrations such as water spinning in opposite directions down the drain in each hemisphere, and going straight down the plug hole on the equator.

Tomorrow we are off to Colombia bright and early.
Keep us posted on how you all are.
xoxo Jacs and Ben

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