Monday, October 11, 2010
Jumping Off Bridges
What an incredible weekend! This past weekend we packed our bags and headed to Banos. We were so glad to be leaving Quito for a bit since the government crisis had kept us cooped up. So we left on an early Saturday morning bus and headed to the notoriously touristy town of Banos.
Banos is an adventure town to say the least. You can do a variety of activities in this small town that sits right below a volcano that erupted in 2008 and 2006. You can ride dirt bikes or go carts. You can go hiking or repelling down waterfalls. You can go rafting or just enjoy walking around the town.
We first arrived and decided to find a hostal for the night. We finally settled on an amazing hostal with an amazing rate of $5.50 a night. Therefore, Hostal Santa Cruz has become one of our favorite hostals. After finding a hostal we bought two dollar pizzas that were delicious and geared up for the afternoons activities. First on the agenda was horseback riding, which was on my bucket list. Although I have lived on Horseshoe Point Road all my life and have seen horses every single day, I had never ridden a horse. So I mounted Burrajo and we all headed on a one hour ride through town and then up a hill in the countryside. The view was magnificent and riding a horse was thrilling.
Next, we dismounted only to scamper off to find someone to take us bridge jumping. Processes in Ecuador never cease to amaze me. We went to one place and said that we would like to go bridge jumping. The man said "Sure" (in Spanish of course) and we asked when. He told us right now. We handed him fifteen dollars, signed absolutely no papers, showed absolutely no identification, got into the back of a supped-up golf cart and were headed to the bridge. From the moment I stepped onto the bridge, it took five minutes for them to have me strapped in and ready to jump! Ha! I barely had a chance to look down to see where I was jumping. Actually, down below were rapids. several onlookers from town were staring at the three crazy gringitas who were about to be absolutely foolish. I asked to guy harnessing me in, "Es seguro?" (Is it secure?) to which he answered in a questionable manner... "oh sure..." We barely had time to think before they were ushering us to the side of the bridge and telling us to climb over onto the tiny square of a platform mounted on the outside of the bridge. Looking down took my breath away. Hands up, Kimberly! (We would be jumping at the same time) Uno, dos, tres! Free fall! That was the craziest feeling of my life. This bridge jump was more like a huge swing. So you free fall and then swing under the bridge. I barely heard myself scream. While we enjoyed the rest of the swing over the river, we laughed so hard at the thrill and immediately wanted to go again. Lesson learned... Trust is easier when you are rushed and do not have time to question. Do don't think. Worked in this case...but I do not suggest it for all of life.
After bridge jumping we went around town watching all of the guys working the taffy on the door posts of their shops. Picture huge wads of taffy being pulled and tugged to keep it soft and mixed. We made it a point to try each one so that we could decide our favorite flavors. Coconut was mine but blackberry was a very close second. Since we had a bit of time we decided to go and visit the church of the saint of the holy water. Apparently, this saint and her waters from the volcano have saved hundreds of lives. The church was packed and we thought that we were attending a mass. So we stood in the back admiring the church and listening to the priest. Slowly I began to pick up on the fact that this was not a mass but a funeral! So, another check off the bucket list; we have now, not purposefully, attended a catholic ecuadorian funeral.
It began to rain and we chose to go to dinner at Casa Hood. This place was the most wonderful restaurant with fireplaces, bookshelves, and a Spanish movie playing in the adjacent room. We ordered lasagna and burritos and later dessert and coffee. We enjoyed our candlelit table, looking at books from all over the world, and talking for hours. I was able to trade one of my books for one of theirs for just a dollar which was an exciting process. We absolutely loved this place and the rain beating down outside made it all the more surreal.
After dinner, we changed into our bathing suits and headed to what Banos is famous for, the banos. These are hot pools naturally heated from the volcano. So, as it sprinkled rain we sat in these hot pools and gazed at the night sky and the waterfall that was to our right! Although the pools were crowded at night, we had a relaxing hour or so before we headed back to the hostal and off to bed.
The next morning we got up bright and early to pack and eat an amazing breakfast at Cafe Blah Blah. We enjoyed pancakes, eggs, bread, and coffee before we rented bikes for $5 dollars and headed down the road toward a town called Puyo. We rode for 3 hours and about 30 miles enjoying the sites of waterfalls (even riding under a small one) and riding through a tunnel carved in the mountain. Most of the ride was a thrilling downhill ride although we had a lot of uphill stretches towards the end. For the sake of time, we did not make it quite to Puyo but we were very close. We flagged down a van and payed them to take us back to Banos, where we had just enough time to return the bikes, get our book bags, buy taffy, and run to the bus back to Quito.
This weekend was incredible and filled with so many fun activities and great times with friends. However, I will never forget the feeling that washed over me while I was on the back of the horse and on my rented mountain bike; a love for this country. I have been enjoying my time here and growing accustomed to living life here. But I feel like this was the trip in which I fell in love. While riding the bike and the horse, I just paused to look around, to breath in the air, and thank God for allowing me to be here. He created this beautiful place and these beautiful people and I am enthralled. I am even more enthralled with the Creator of this creation and am praising Him for giving me this love.