Soaring Over Ecuador
As this academic week closed to an end, the excitement amongst us grew. It’s one thing to be traveling to another country to study abroad, with programs and activities set up as a part of academia. However, it’s another thing to be able to travel freely on your own with no prepared schedule- just wanderlust and spontaneity (and maybe some planning on Facebook messenger) leading the day.
This weekend was our first four-day weekend, so naturally, all of us had decided to make use of this free time and travel to one of the most well-known attractions of Ecuador: Baños! But do not let the name fool you- Baños has some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
We left not so bright and early to meet at the IES center on a Saturday morning to jump into our tightly packed (but very affordable, thank you Valeria!) traveling tourist van. After eating our packed to-go breakfasts from our wonderful host families and many cat naps later, we arrived in Baños three hours later. We stayed at a place called “La Pedrón”, a cute little hotel less than a 5-minute walk from the bustling center of Baños. As soon as we arrived at our hotel, we dropped off our bags in our respective rooms and out the door we went for a full day of adventure!
|A rainbow emerging from Pailon del Diablo.|
One of the many stops on the way to the top.
Our first stop was at Pailon del Diablo, “The Devil’s Cauldron”. There was a small hike down with many different vendors selling handmade jewelry, chopped fruit, and ice cream along the way. The best part was that we paid only $1.50 for an experience that was priceless. With some more hiking, you could get right up close to see the raging waterfall pound down into Pailon del Diablo. There were different viewpoints as you climbed towards the top- each one closer to the cascade. The climb was something that I don’t think any one of us could forget because it wasn’t just hiking; it was (literally, in Angie’s case) crawling in small algae-filled tunnels and jumping up rocks. Due to my claustrophobic feels and distaste for wet clothing in warm weather, you would think that I would have loathed the experience. Yet, as we all reached the top and got soaked in Pailon del Diablo’s waterfall, I think we could all agree that it was an unforgettable moment. Plus, who can say they’ve climbed to the top of a waterfall?!
|Miriam and Sara canoping through the canyon Superman-style.|
Our second stop- canoping! The definition of canoping: basically like ziplining but a lot cheaper and just one line, also super fun. This was not part of our Baños plan, but the driver kind of just dropped us off there and we all did it on a whim. However, spontaneity was not really a choice. We hopped out of the van, paid for entrance, and within the next 10 minutes, we were getting hooked up onto the wire and getting ready to fly through the canyon Superman style. There was really no time to think twice- and soaring above the beautiful view, I was thankful that none of us did. “We all had vertigo, but it was not from the fear of falling, but the longing the fly.”
|Angelica swinging at the edge of the world at La|
Casa del Arbol.
After our spontaneous canoping adventure, we went to La Casa del Arbol. After a steep climb to the top (everyday is leg day in Ecuador), we paid $1 to “swing at the edge of the world”. La Casa del Arbol reminded me of a park- but an adult park. The famous swings were set at the edge of the cliff, there was a swinging contraption that seemed more like a ziplining experience, and logs hovered over water and sides of the mountain that people just teetered on for fun! Despite the dangers, it was interesting to see how freely people let their children run around and jump onto these contraptions. Children who seemed no older than 5 were climbing onto the raised logs while their parents casually stood by. While my first reactions were to guide the children off of these high platforms, observing this type of behavior while we waited in line for the swing reminded me where I was. I often forget that I’m in a completely different country, but it’s moments like those where I catch myself discovering how something as simple as the environment in which people grew up in can completely alter normal expectations. The children were fearless- I, however, was terrified. Some advice if you ever plan on visiting La Casa del Arbol: don’t scream when you get on the swing because the workers take that as an invitation to spin you while they push you in order to freak you out even more! Even though each of us only got to be on the swing for about 30 seconds, the awesome pictures we captured definitely make up for the long wait.
After that, we all explored Baños in different ways. Some of us went to experience the nightlife, some went to relax in the spa, and others went ziplining the following day! Regardless, our snores on the ride back to Quito were quite reflective of how exhausting, yet wonderful, our short little weekend was!