Written by Jeff Vredenburg

Baños is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is a small town that would be perfect either as a weekend getaway or a month long escape from reality. Situated on the side of a 19,000 foot active volcano and at the top of a 60 km valley that leads down to the jungle, it is perfectly situated to give adventure seekers the maximum amount of options. Rafting class V rapids, mountain biking up and down mountain paths, canyon jumping, rock climbing and jungle tours are all available and plausible within 30 minutes of the city, and the plethora of tour operators means that it never hard to find a tour or bargain the price down. Of course, icing on the cake is that after a hard day of climbing or jolting your muscles from a rocky course ride, you can go soak in the geothermal springs that are found all over the city and up the mountain. And with an admission cost of $2 for four hours, it’s hard to resist going every day…or twice a day.
 
Our first day, Tyler and I rented mountain bikes ($4 for the entire day) and rode down from the city toward the jungle. Most of the ride was downhill, including one section where we did not pedal for at least 10 minutes as we zipped through small villages and along gorges with a river far below. We stopped at one of the gorges to see a waterfall accessible only be cable car or a rickety bridge. The bridge was free (terror was the only charge) and we were more than careful crossing it when we saw the broken planks and signs warning against running and jumping.

After a quick snack of tuna fish and Ritz crackers, (I love America) we were back in the saddle and on our way. We made it 45km before it started getting too dark, and we decided that we would hitchhike back to Baños. We waited 20 minutes before a suitable car, a pickup with an open flatbed, passed, and we hopped on.  We wore our helmets (like THAT would have helped) as we tore through the countryside through dripping tunnels and over precarious bridges until we arrived at Baños wind ravaged and hungry.  Hot springs have never felt so good.

 

Day two was a hike, and we started up on the south west side of the city going up stairs reminiscent of the Great Wall. We gained 200m of altitude in 10 minutes, and were only one fourth of the way to the top. The last 600m took the better part of three hours as they wound up the mountain through villages, cow pastures and orchards. The view from the top was spectacular; we overlooked a huge valley that led up to the snow capped volcano Tungurahua.
 
Day three was rock climbing, immense basalt cliffs provided a decent amount of handholds for a few 5’9s and 5´10 climb. The 5´10 was a bit too difficult and when the guide climbed it without ropes in about 15 seconds, we felt all the better about ourselves. Our forearms completely dominated, we returned to our hotel, ate some food and headed to soak in 107 degree water. Next to the hot pool at the springs was a 60 degree pool that we had not dared to enter the first few days, but at the urging of a few natives that praised its health benefits, we started to experiment with the hot-cold treatment to find it extremely soothing. There is nothing quite like being submerged in water so cold that you can´t feel your toes and then jumping into water 50 degrees warmer. 
 
Basalt in Baños (Jeff)

Basalt in Baños (Tyler)

Our last day in  Baños we rented bikes and decided that we were going to bike the trail that we had hiked down a few days before.  We asked the people that lent us the bikes how to get to the trails, and they explained that the trails that we wanted to go down were only for walking and that the bikes that they rented were not for trail riding.   They had decent shocks and were in good condition, and we figured that as long as we took it easy, we would be fine. We found the route to get up the mountain by road and started climbing, 7km and 2 hours later we reached the top, tired and thirsty but ready for the descent. It took us 34 minutes to go down over the steepest terrain I have ever ridden, but except for the path´s lining of barbed wire backed by sheer cliff and the occasional cow or sheep, there was minimal risk involved.  That night we said goodbye to our beloved hot springs and took a night bus to Guayaquil, vive reggaeton.

Vista de Tungurahua arriba de Baños

Candy in the Park (Baños)

 This kid came up to us while we were biding our time in a park in the center of Baños. He was super curious as to what we were up to, and went through all of the things that we let him handle. He didn´t speak coherent Spanish, we think that he might have spoken a bit of Quechua but it may have been 2 year old babble. Anyway, In the midst of our conversation, he was like, ¨Peepee!!!¨ and he started unzipping his pants to pee on the bench. We asked him where his mom was, and after a good deal of arm guestures convinced him to go to his mother so she could take him to a restroom. To our amusement, she unzipped his pants and pulled them down for him, and let him pee in the center of the square. Well, we tried.

Livin the Dream

This is a picture that I snapped of Tyler after he crashed at 2030 one night. It seems like every night after dinner we go back to our room and one of says, “I am just going to rest for a few moments…” and before we know it we are both out cold with our clothes, books, cameras and toiletries all around us. Usually we wake up in an hour or so with enough time to go and enjoy some night-life, but a few times we have just slept through the whole night and awoken the next morning after upwards of 12 hours of sleep thinking, “Was I really that tired?” I believe that this is what people call, LIVING THE DREAM!

Tyler at Las Peñas

Hilarious picture of me being followed by the police

Guayaquil Las Peñas Cityscape
 Overview of Guayaquil from Las Peñas

 Written by Tyler Depke

So in the cloud forest, the only access to the outside world was radio, and good thing, otherwise we wouldn’t have known about the most romantic concert in the world that was about to happen a week later in a city relatively close.
 
Makano and Nigga are two reggaton artists that are less hardcore reggaton and they do more slow lovey songs that is comparable to old backstreet boys or NSYNC stuff, but obviously in Spanish. Nonetheless, being the cool gringos we are, we entered a collesium filled with about 10,000 people, a majority of which were teenage girls. Although it was dominated by girls, teenage guys were not shy to make an appearance or stand of screaming the lyrics during the songs. The guys sitting next to me didnt even look like he was with anyone, but still obviously lovin it. There wasnt a gringo in sight. The only thing that wasnt worth the $16 was the 1hr 45min pre concert of stand up comedy and bad intro rappers that we couldnt understand. Other than that, it was everything I expected. For any reggaton fans, Makano doesnt sounds as good in concert as his CD, and Nigga is MUCH better live than he is on his album.

 

In Cuzco (by Jeff)

The other night Tyler and I were walking from our hostel and I was talking about people that bleach their hair and how I thought that sometimes it looked cool. He asked me why I thought of that, and I explained that, ¨The other day while I was waiting for you to go get something from the room, I was people watching and I saw an Australian with blond hair, and I thought that he was hot out of his fricken mind.¨ And as I completed that sentence, the girl walking in front of turned around laughing, ¨I am Australian, and I couldn´t help but overhear your conversation, and I think that it is hilarious.¨  After laughing at how ridiculous it was that she overheard my comment, we walked with her through town and she showed us her favorite restaurants and explained that she had been working in the city for over a month. Probably the most ridiculous way to meet someone EVER!

 

Volunteer Programs in Ecuador South America

Written by Tyler Depke

So I figured I’d put this information up online because this is the kind of information I was looking for before I left for South America, but can really only be found on the streets because budgets dont allow these programs to advertise online much. Here are four pictures of flyers that we f0und in Baños. I will post more later, but if you have any kind of information like this please comment or leave a link to a site where we can find more information. If this section gets a lot of hits, I might dedicate more time and put more things up. I feel like blogs would be the place to find this kind of information.

    Volunteer in Ecuador Project 1

   Volunteer in Ecuador Project 3 Volunteer in Ecuador Project 4 Volunteer in Ecuador Project 2

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Author: tdepke

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