31.08.2010 - 05.09.2010 19 °C
New day and a new continent. And wow was it new. After 11 weeks in two countries that are very similar to Australia I had been craving that culture shock again. Arriving in Ecuador I could see it was going to deliver. But unfortunately after almost five months of travelling I was also finally starting to get home sick. I was missing my nice warm bed, my own space, hot showers, my own clean kitchen, my gym and of course Triple J. I was missing all of those little creature comforts, and for this reason when I first arrived in Quito I was not excited to be here. I was frustrated when things did not go my way. The things I did not like annoyed me instead of me accepting them as part of a new culture. I decided it was time for time out. And what better place for a little time out than Banos? The plan was to allow myself three nights away from the world to be the biggest misery guts I could be in a little luxury (by luxury I mean a $30 a night hotel room). I do a similar thing when I am feeling a little down in the dumps at home. I give myself permission to have a set amount of time out to mope around and feel sorry for myself. And then after the deadline I make myself suck it up and get on with it. And seriously, I was in South America!! Time to get over myself I think!
Heading to Banos was really the right decision. As soon as I got there I fell in love with the culture, the people and the landscape. Banos is a beautiful little town nestled in amongst some gorgeous green mountains and a live volcano. And right next to my hotel there was a little waterfall coming out of the side of the mountain. The markets were busy and the hot springs full of people. I spent ages on the first day walking around the town, often walking down streets two or three times. I just loved the relaxed atmosphere and all the beautiful little things for sale. I booked in to go horse riding and down hill biking the following day. The hotel I was staying at was also great. It was nothing fancy, but I had a big beautiful comfortable bed and a warm shower. There was a restaurant in the hotel with a great menu that used only seasonal fruit and vegetables from the local area. Perfect!
The next morning I was up and eager to go horse riding. Jose who owned the tour company Jose and Two Dogs I went through (well I am assuming he was the owner, I am pretty sharp like that) was even kind enough to lend me his camera for the time I was in Banos as I had accidentally left mine in Miami. I had decided it was a good idea on my last night in Miami to take photos of my new tattoo while drunk. Isn't it great how certain things seem like a good idea when you are drunk? Like deciding while drunk to to go skinny dipping in the neighbours pool at 2am (another storey another time); or deciding to write on Newton Faulkner's facebook page (well that was a good idea, he wrote back!); or deciding to take out an expensive camera to take photos and thinking 'I don't need to put it back in my bag right now, I would never forget my camera'. HAHA!! Idiot. But I had Jose's bright pink camera so I was fine for the time being.
The horse riding itself was great. I was happy about the fact that I did not have to wear a helmet.I was happier about the fact that Jose broke us into two teams, those who can ride and those who can't. The team who could ride were expected to gallop pretty much the entire way up to the base of the volcano. It was great, this is how horse riding should be. Fast and without restriction. The only issue I had was at one time instead of using the rains to hit the horse to get it go faster, I whipped my leg and my new tattoo; that hurt a little bit. At the base of the volcano Jose told us about the last two times it had erupted. He said in Banos everyone was so used to it they just continued about their days. But because of the small rocks that would fall continuously from the sky people would walk around with all kinds of things on their heads for protection; helmets, pillows, small tables and even boats. I kind of wished the volcano would erupt so I could see this for myself. What a great mentality. Why be stressed out by something that you can not change and that is not going to hurt you? I wonder if it were to have erupted while I was there if the hotel staff would mind if I borrowed a pillow for bit? I would have given it back.
The down hill biking was not as successful as the horse riding. I had never done it before but though it looked like a lot of fun and that it would be great to give it a go. As a kid I had loved going down hills on my bike as fast as possible on what ever track I could find. As a kid not much scared me. But now at 27 I am a little more aware of the fact I am actually destructible (after a few scars, bruises and trips to the emergency room you eventually catch on). But there was no way I was going to destroy anything at the incredibly slow speed I went. I may have been the worst down hill biker on the face of the planet, but how are you meant to know if you enjoy things if you don't give it a go? I was ok at the steep down hill bits, and I was ok on the rocky bits, but where I came into trouble was where the two were combined. But the tour guide who was about ten (great) got some photos of me that made it look like I knew what I was doing and that I might actually posses some skill in this sport.
My last full day in Banos was my chill out day. I had the best day just relaxing in my hotel, eating their incredible food and updating all of the bits and pieces that needed to be updated. I also tried to organise how to get my camera back from the hostel in Miami. The staff at the hostel refused to walk my camera the ten metres to the FedEx office down the sreet to send it back to me, even though I was willing to pay them an extra $50 to do it. I asked them so many times (once in tears) if they could help, but they were not willing to do sweet F.A. to help. I called FedEx myself and went online to try and arrange a pick up, but because I was an Australian in Ecuador who needed something picked up in the US there was nothing I could do. Within a few hours of constantly being told no one could help me with what I needed to get done I had to go out for a walk because I was crying in frustration. When I came back I noticed on facebook a fellow Perthite I had met in Mexico was headed to Miami Beach. He was my lucky answer. He was willing to go to the hostel and post my camera for me!! That is what I love about travelling, everything always works out in the end.
The bus ride back from Banos was just as interesting as the bus ride there. A completely inappropriate movie and a bus crowded with people. Children do not pay for bus seats in Ecuador, instead they sit on their parents laps. So if a mother is on the bus with her two or three children, they all sit on her lap. And the person next to the family probably gets the occasional kick. While the kids sit there they are able to watch the horror movie being played on board (I have been on these buses a few times now, the entertainment always seems to be a gory horror or action flick). The movie showing on my trip was about a the young blonde girl who ends up getting her head chopped in half with a shovel. Right through the mouth. And then the top of her head slides down the shovel before making a lovely sound as it hits the ground. Nice. (I may have shielded my eyes for a bigger portion of this). Once all of the seats fill up on the bus, people just stand in the isle for the three hour ride. And then there is the constant flow of people who hop on and off and push their way down the isle, despite all of the people standing there, and try to sell food to the passengers. But it did not bother me. It is all just pas\rt of Ecuadorian culture.