Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Baños and the Ecuadorian National Ballet

Sorry this post took so long to get out, but my interesting weekend started last week on Tuesday Sept. 16 when I went to the Ecuadorian National Ballet show "Flor de Paz" with a group of people from my school. It was a very interesting event centered around peace. The ballet was followed by music and more dancing. It was a great example of ecuadorian culture. The National Ballet is something that the government has kept free so that everyone has the opportunity to attend. 

This weekend I was lucky to go to Baños, probably one of the most popular destinations for travelling Ecuadorians, as well as "Gringos" like us. 

Day 1:
Overlooking Baños on my way up to La Casa del Arbol
We arrived in Baños midday Friday and so to finish out the afternoon we started on a hike to the cross over looking Baños and La Casa del Arbol (The Tree House). The first part of our hike was so steep with no sign of leveling off, but after a few breaks to take pictures of the city, we made it up to cross. I was slightly disappointed by all of the fencing and wires that were around the cross, but the view was still gorgeous. At this point, we thought we were about half-way to La Casa del Arbol, but we were mistaken. However, after walking on many wrong trails we made it to the tree house and it was completely worth it! The view was gorgeous and "the swing off the end of the world" definitely lived up to its name! It had amazing views of Volcán Tungurahua. It was all worth a few hours of hiking and 50 cents. A great way to start off the weekend! 

Day 2:

We started our day with breakfast in the morning at our hostel and headed straight the adventure tours shop we had seen the day before to sign up for "Canyoning" and start our day off! We got all geared up and ready to go, but we had to wait a while for other groups to get ready to go. While waiting, we tried Ukuy, an amazonian species of ant, that we were told only come out of the volcano once per year. Canyoning was definitely worth the wait. We repelled down a few waterfalls, which was fun but actually quite difficult, but the last and largest one was the most terrifying. The guide asked if I was ready, I wasn't sure, but in a instant he dropped me down and lowered me down a gigantic waterfall. After the first shock, it was amazing. After canyoning we got back and I took a warm shower and headed out in search of some lunch. We walked around an indoor market for a while and then we asked a woman where we could find some cuy. She pointed us
Grilling Cuy

to a small restaurant outside with a woman sitting at a grill cooking cuy. It was obviously the right place. We all tried cuy, guinea pig, an Ecuadorian delicacy, for the very first time. After our lunch, we went back to the adventure shop to get out CD's of pictures from our tour. While we were there we signed up for a "Volcano Tour" for that night. We were very unsure of what it included, but it was only $3. Why not? We had about 2 hours before we needed to return for the tour so we went on a hike to the Virgin above town. A much shorter hike with many more stairs compared to the hike to the cross, but just as beautiful. After soaking in the beauty, we hurried back down, ate some dinner and were off to our tour! We piled into a chiva and were taken up to what were figured out was the cross from the day before. We gathered around our guide and looked out at the city lit up with street lights, everywhere else was black. He told us a few facts about Baños, the National Parks, and Volcán Tunguruahua. He then pointed at the volcano and in the dark we see red lava begin to spray out of the top of the active volcano like a small misting fountain! It was amazing. It was too dark to take a picture, but it was so beautiful! The guide then served us Canelazo, a traditional Ecuadorian alcoholic drink that is warm and made with sugar and cinnamon (canela). We returned to our hotel on the chiva. It was an all around cultural and exciting day full of many new experiences. 
Chiva at night!
Chiva at night!

Hiking to the Virgin
Chiva during the day

Trying Canelazo
The virgin

 Day 3: 

On Sunday, we started out a little later after exhaustion from the night before. After breakfast, we rented bicycles and started out towards the six waterfalls on the way to El Pailón del Diablo. The waterfalls were more and more beautiful the further we got from town. We finally made it to Pailón del Diablo. A huge and beautiful waterfall. After some hiking and crawling, we were able to walk up underneath the waterfall. It was gorgeous, but cold! I needed it to help wake me up because by Sunday I was so exhausted I was barely able to open my eyes completely for pictures! We put our bikes in back of a truck (to avoid all the hills we got to ride down on the way to the waterfalls!) and headed back to town. We hopped on a bus back to Quito, as we were leaving we could see a huge plume of smoke coming from Volcán Tungurahua, looks like we got out of town just in time! (It's not the danger of the volcano that is the problem in Baños, but we have been told over and over again that if they say not to go, you probably will not have very much fun.) We were on the road just in time to hit all of the Sunday evening traffic heading home after the weekend! It took us over 4 hours to get back! It was ok, I was so tired I barely even noticed!
Getting Drenched by the El Pailón del Diablo 
Biking to Pailón del Diablo

Volcán Tungurahua 


Gringo: White person; usually American or European
Chiva: Open-air Ecuadorian bus that usually lit up and blasting with music
Cuy: Ecuadorian delicacy, guinea pig meat
Canelazo: Traditional alcoholic drink made with cinnamon
Canela: Cinnamon
Ukuy: Amazonian flying ant that is commonly cooked and eaten around the Amazon

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