sábado, 10 de septiembre de 2011

It's all about the Journey, Not the Destination

Saturday, I met 8 friends at USFQ to head to Banos, an adventure town known for extreme sports, hot springs and waterfalls.  We decided to get our own bus because everyone said the buses to and from Banos are super dangerous plus we figured it'd be faster.  One of the girls, Miranda's, host sister had a friend who drives a 14 passenger van so he was driving us and all was fine and dandy until we were about 45min away from Banos.  There was some sort of checkpoint set up by the police and we were stopped and I really don't understand exactly what happened, but something about his papers for his vehicle not matching his ability to transport us or something... all I know is that we all got out and left him and Miranda's host sister with the police and they had to go back to the station with the cops where they stayed until past 9pm and we began walking along the side of the highway trying to figure out what to do. We talked to some locals who told us various buses we could take to get to Banos and so we began waving down buses and asking if we could get to Banos.  Miranda is excellent at Spanish, so she did all this and eventually we got on a bus that took us to some station in a random Ecuadorian town.  Then we found out the bus to Banos was at a different terminal so we went up to get taxis and the fact that we were only taking the taxis to the new station didn't quite translate, so 4 people got into a taxi and the other 4 of us were trying to get a taxi when these high school boys asked if we were going to Banos.  They were too and they'd flagged down a pickup to take them and said we could come and there was this guy in a clown suit following us around and telling us to go with them.  I was terrified for my life, but my friend Beth who'd been talking to the boys said yes and so we hopped into the back of the pickup.  After talking to the boys for a few minutes and passing signs pointing to Banos, I felt better and then found out we were actually in a fairly legit taxi, it just happened to be a pickup truck.  Finally, 8 hours later, we arrived in Banos and we waited at the bus station where we met up with the other half of our group.  Then we went and acquired a hostel for $7 each, scheduled rafting and canyoning for the next day and got some food, and all was much better.

The boys we rode in the pickup with had been going to the hot springs, so after eating we decided that sounded wonderful so we changed into our bathing suits and walked to the hot springs to find what looked like a municipal pool with an insanely long line.  None of us wanted to wait, but there was this dinosaur bus thing that looked awesome, so we all hopped on.  It was by far the best dollar I've ever spent.  It was essentially like a roller coaster train, but on wheels and we drove all around the city and the driver would weave so we'd slither along and we went to this traffic circle that was the perfect size for the dino ride and we rode in circles around it like 5x.  It was so fun!  Then we just wandered around the city and then went on this party bus up the volcano overlooking the city.  There was some comedy show going on and a ton of people up there, but I had no idea what was going on or why so many people we up there.  We stayed for what seemed like forever, and then the party bus took us to a discoteca, but my friend Polly and I were both super tired so we just skipped out and walked back to our hostel.

Sunday, we met at the adventure place where we'd made our reservations and we got on the bus to go whitewater rafting.  We drove for like an hour to get to the place we were rafting, but it was totally worth it.  We ended up with the most experienced guide in our boat and he was amazing.  He's 23 and a professional kayaker and was hillarious.  He had the girls take turns sitting on the front of the boat which was super fun.  I thought I was gonna fall out at first, and it was a bit scary seeing yourself being steered into the largest rapid, but it was amazing!  Definitely the best place to sit when rafting.  When we were done rafting, we got back on the bus and lunch was included, which in the US means you get an apple and a pb&j, but in Ecuador, it means a 3 course meal, which I was a huge fan of.

Then the bus took us directly to the place where we were canyoning which was awesome!  It was just 6 of us with one guy from England and everyone else went back.  They gave us wetsuits and harnesses and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  Once we were all geared up, our guide took us to the middle of this huge waterfall and started tying his rope into a piece of metal in the rock and then he began explaining how to rappel to us... in Spanish.  I was terrified and then Polly just hopped up and began going down.  The first part we just rappelled down about 15 feet, with the waterfall gushing over our ankles as we went.  I was so scared and even though I was told numerous times to keep my feet flat as I went down, it was more natural to go on the ball of my foot, until I slipped a couple feet from the bottom.  The guide just lowered me the rest of the way to where I could stand, and I have some awesome burises on my legs.  Then we walked alongside the water to the next drop where we slide down the drop which was super fun.  Then to get to the next drop, we had to go through the water to a boulder with a ledge.  We were clipped in, but I was so scared, the guide had to come get me and hold my hand to get to the ledge.  Then we had to go off the edge of what was more than a 60ft drop.  The guide essentially had to push me off, but it was totally worth it.  We had to rappel down about 6ft and then the wall just disappeared and we swung in and out of the waterfall as we were lowered down.  It was by far the craziest thing I've ever done, but it was definitely worth it.  Then our guide waved to us pointing to the trail back up and disappeared.  The walk back up was almost as much of an adventure, with ladders ascending the steep mountainside.  Once we made it back up to the little hut we were dropped off at, our guide was waiting for us with hot tea which was amazing.  We decided it tasted like McDonald's sweet tea warmed up.  Then we chatted with Christian, the guy from England as we waited for our ride back to town.  He moved to Ecuador about a month ago looking for a job as an English teacher, but isn't really ready to work, so he's just been traveling around and doing cool stuff.

Once we got back to Banos, we went back to our hostel and picked up our bags and then changed and went in search of a place for dinner.  We couldn't find anywhere and time was running low until the last bus was leaving, so we got some empanadas and plantains from street vendors.  Then we couldn't find our bus at the station, so Miranda went and talked to the lady we bought our tickets from.  She said the bus was on its way, but after our adventures getting to Banos, we didn't want a repeat.  Miranda kept going back to the lady and once our bus arrived, she came out and walked us to the bus like little children.  The bus ride back went swimmingly and once we got to the station in the South of Quito, we got out and it was too late for local buses so we went and got a taxi.  We were able to get a pickup truck taxi with a cover over the back to take us all the way back to Cumbaya which was perfect since it was midnight.

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