Monday, April 14, 2014

Yoo 600 - Canyoning and Karaoke

After dinner at an expensive ($6-a-plate) Mexican restaurant and before hot bathing with the locals, we searched around for an adventure company and something to do the next day. If something is adventurous, you can do it in Banos. Alisha had all these "let's Superman across a giant gorge or hang-glide off a cliff" ideas and I took the part of a tactful veto.

I would say age makes you more conservative but we were there celebrating her 30th so I guess that's not always the case.

We walked into a few different tour companies, unable to reach a consensus, before wandering into one where they sat us on a couch and started playing videos of all the things we could do. It was a really effective sales tactic! Twenty-minutes later we had all gotten excited about canyoning and dropped down a $20 deposit for the next morning.

I think this is the only not completely unflattering picture of me in a wet suit. If I learned anything canyoning, it's that I'm not ready to be casted as Catwoman quite yet. Darn...

My shoes didn't match.

Harness diapers!

The hike up was NOT in the video they had shown us! It was only 15-20 minutes but pretty intense. Especially in the heat and humidity wearing a wet suit. Also, Greg's suit was super tight because they didn't have his size and he couldn't breath to begin with. We were only half-dressed by the time we got to the first falls as a desperate attempt not to roast.

Then our guide dunked us to fill up the suits and I did not enjoy that. Still hate cold water.

"Guys, I didn't sign up to go first...he knows I'm not going first, right??"

Now THIS is a trust-exercise. She was perpendicular to the rock and we still aren't sure that that was what the guide wanted her to do, but he kept insisting on something and didn't stop insisting until she was posed like this...

As you can imagine, the rocks were super slippery. It was not the most graceful rappelling. Except for our guide. He was literally running down these rocks face-first.

I was actually impressed with Greg's rappelling skills. Except for the one time his foot slipped into a crevice while his body went the other way and he almost did serious damage to his ankle...which would have been a problem.

Alisha, was this where you peed in your wetsuit? I hope not!

For the record, peeing in your wetsuit is a unique experience, but not recommended.

There was one point during a rappel where the guide told me to stop for some reason and I wasn't even half-way down the wall. For me, rappelling is fun until I'm given an opportunity to pause and let my imagination run wild with the possibilities of equipment failure. It was no bueno.

This was about the scariest start to a rappel. We were on a super steep, super slippery rock and had to position ourselves on an anchored piece of ladder before jumping off.

Also related, our hands were pruney and we didn't have gloves.

Fifty meters was our tallest rappel. It doesn't seem that bad from the bottom...but from the top it might as well be an abyss.

It's all fun and games...

...until your guide rips off the top-half of your warm wetsuit...

...and makes you slide...

...into the freezing water.

And then you scramble out and he pulls you back in. Five times.

Alisha's getting all cozy with our guide in this picture because she didn't have the opportunity to on the salsa dance floor later that night. He asked her several different times! Unfortunately we had a bus to Quito to catch right after our trip.

Will dance for food.

Greg's food. This was shortly before I ate my whole plate, lettuce included. About 5 seconds after I'd eaten my lettuce, the meal conversation turned to how lettuce was almost impossible to clean and how you should never eat the lettuce. Apparently both Greg and Alisha knew this and hadn't been eating their lettuce throughout the entirety of this trip.

Guess who had?

Thanks for the warning guys!

Killing time waiting for the bus. We also ran into the missionaries! And they spoke English! Probably because they were both from Utah but it was exciting.

Also exciting was that time when I guessed right. We were buying our bus tickets to Quito and there were two different terminals to choose from. Each quite a ways from each other. I had no idea where we needed to be in Quito and where these terminals were in relation to that place but I went with my gut feeling and what do you know?


It actually got us within 3 blocks of our intended destination but we wouldn't know that until after paying a taxi $3 to drive us those 3 blocks...

We had a momentary lapse of judgment wherein we spotted a Papa Johns right next to our bus stop in Quito. "Well how exciting!" We all thought. "We're starving! Pizza for dinner!" But nope. We walked in and it was about $20 for a medium-sized pizza.


So instead we paid a taxi driver $3 to drive us 3 blocks. Remember this? We didn't know our way around at all but knew where we needed to be at 7am the next morning and figured we could just find a hostel nearby. Enter the search for a taxi because we figured we were a long ways off this location. And the driver assured us that we were.

We definitely weren't.

But we found a hostel and were wandering around looking for dinner when a mariachi man pulled us into his Mexican restaurant and the food wasn't good and the total for dinner was even more than the Papa Johns pizza.


And then we slept on super squeaky bunk beds in a room filled with incense.

Wait. I ALMOST FORGOT. Before the squeaky bunk beds and after the expensive bland Mexican food, we did karaoke.  Per Alisha's request who felt like we needed to party at least one night. Single people! So we slipped into one of the places with a flashy KARAOKE sign and sat at a table next to the only other group of people around. About 5 minutes later they were hitting on Alisha and buying us drinks. And by drinks I mean juice. Then we took turns singing our Spanish and English songs and about 5 minutes after that one of the guys (speaking thru an interpreter) informed us that he was a guard for the president's house and would like to give us a tour if we came during visiting hours on Saturday. The weird thing is I think he was actually serious.

It was tempting, for sure, but we had to decline. There were several more passes of the microphone until I finally convinced Alisha that it was bed time.

NOW enter the squeaky bunk beds.

Have a great day :-)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Yoo 599 - Swings And Baths

Our first stop in Banos was La Casa Del Arbol. You have a few options when attempting to reach this random site at a volcano monitoring station. The first is hiking, the second is hiring a taxi, and the third is a combination of the two.

We opted for a $10 taxi ride up the volcano and then hiked down. BEST DECISION. The hike up is brutal and would have taken us all day and we'd probably have been angry and then we would have had to share the swing. Instead, we got there refreshed and before anyone else had arrived.

The tree house is hanging over a ravine and both the tree house and the swing attached to it are awful for fears of heights but the imminent danger isn't quite as high as initially perceived. The ravine has a very gradual slope and if something were to happen, you'd probably just violently roll for a while...

I freaked out a lot though, especially with Greg swinging. THE WHOLE TREE MOVED. But it was fun after a while.

Also related, pretend all my spellings of Banos in the rest of this post have the squiggly line above the 'n'...

This picture almost does my fear and tepidness justice.

I eventually warmed up to the experience.

On a clear day, you're supposed to have awesome views of the volcano and all the surrounding mountains. We had a blanket of clouds but it was still pretty cool. Like you were swinging off into nothing.

The cow is licking his nose! Ok, there are a lot of cow pictures.

He's udderly impressed.

Then Greg approached and the cow licked him. It was weird. Greg was super excited about it.

He was missing his dog!

Hiking down saved us $10 and gave us the chance to enjoy the views and kill our leg muscles. AND, most importantly, sing "99 bottles" in its ENTIRETY for the first time ever. At least my first time ever. Have you made it all the way thru? It was 99 bottles of Coke on the wall, because Coke was the official beverage sponsor of this trip.

Alisha stopped to pee and I took pictures of Greg not looking. Aren't we glad this is documented?

I don't know what's happening here. It's like he's getting ready to pick me up and throw me down the mountain...

Let it be recorded that I did NOT lose my sunglasses on this trip. There is a first time for everything.

Banos below!

Finally finishing "99 bottles"!

Almuerzos! Usually 2-4 dollars for a filling soup, big plate of beans and chicken and rice and some veggies, and a drink or dessert. Pretty delicious and super filling. Plus, perfect if you're horrible at Spanish because you don't have to make any decisions and you generally know what you're getting.

Icecream cones as reward for surviving the hike down! Also, we ran into the German couple that we'd been on the first day of the jungle expedition with. It was a pretty exciting moment and we just love them.

They're on a year-long round-the-world trip and I'm a wee bit jealous.

Does this look safe to you?

 How bout now?

Bus selfie. En route to El Pailon Del Diablo.

Pailon Del Diablo.

Scared of heights. It was high AND slippery.

Side note, I would spot my dad on occasion and my mouth kind of reminds me of what my dad's mouth looks like when he's really struggling with his last rep of bench press. Go family resemblances!

We had to crawl thru all sorts of caves and narrow walkways on the side of this cliff to get to the top of the waterfall. Super fun as long as you didn't think about an earthquake happening right then.

This is a great photo.

My best attempt at a jumping photo at the top. It's blurry and I was getting soaked.

Alisha and her many selfies...


And me and my jumping photos.

It's super hard to jump on a swing bridge. Also, that swing bridge moved too much for comfort. Especially with Pumba stomping around behind me on purpose!

These puppies were fluffy and adorable and most assuredly had fleas.

This car was behind us as we were riding back in a random truck with a bunch of other tourists and we had to laugh at the roll of toilet paper on the dashboard. The lady in the front seat kept covering her face every time we tried to take a picture. The people in the car were actually really good sports and laughed about it. I was mostly jealous that they had toilet paper...

These hot baths are the namesake of Banos. We had high expectations, even though the German couple warned us that it was a total let down and they were far too crowded. I think that's really what egged us on. The main pool was closed so everyone was crowding in the hottest pool. It was bodies up on bodies and super hard to get real estate on the bench along the wall.

There was an awkward moment when a space opened up and I decided to start claiming my territory but the lady next to me commented: "that space is saved".

I defended myself by acting like I was really just there to get a picture of Greg and Alisha. It was a good save but I was still bitter I didn't get my wall seat! There were definitely too many people in that pool.

And they overcharged Greg $2 to get in and then we still had to buy these ridiculous shower caps. Not to mention the mandatory shower. Some Ecuadorian man pointed me and Alisha in the direction of the hot showers but there was nothing hot about the showers we found.

The bath was warm though so I won't complain about that.

"We just paid 35 cents to look this cool."

"So many semi-nude bodies. Also, the man behind me needs to stop rubbing his belly."

Greg's sunburn...

This is the picture that the girl who kicked me off of my wall spot offered to take when she realized I was "just moving there to take a couple pictures".

I think it's funny because Alisha is perfectly blurred out.

Also, Greg in a shower cap. I'm so glad the Internet gets to see this.

So, in conclusion, yes to the swing, yes to the waterfalls, no to the baths. Except, yes to the baths because it's an experience. But only once. And only if you have a gallon of cold water stationed nearby. They make you thirsty!

Have a great day :-)
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