Weekend of Wonders

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Tomorrow marks one week in Ecuador but what is even more amazing than that is the weekend we just finished! It was by far the most adventurous three days I’ve ever had.

Our original plan was to leave for Banos (a three hour bus ride…often rounded up to five hour bus ride, due to traffic) right after school on Thursday to stay in a glorious hotel we found a great deal on. However, the following things happened: 1) Our hotel was a false listing on Expedia and ended up not having vacancies. But, our fantastic host mom called several hostels until she found us an opening. We got a great deal on a 4 person room for $7 a night! Although it wasn’t the hotel we had originally wanted, we were thankful – and hoping our fourth roommate wouldn’t be a serial killer. 2) After an taxi hour ride to the bus station, we found out THE MAIN ROAD TO BANOS WAS CLOSED FOR AN EASTER PARADE. (Full disclosure: It might not have been a parade. My Spanish is rusty. But regardless, it was closed and we were stuck.) We took a sad taxi ride back home but were comforted by the fact a 6am bus to Banos was scheduled for the next day.

We we got to Banos (after 5.5 hours on a tour bus) we checked into our hostel and were glad to find that our roommate was not a killer, just a German tourist. We threw our bags down and immediately started looking for our adventures. We walked about 20 feet before we found one: horseback riding up the mountain side to waterfalls and an active volcano. We were sold. What part of that doesn’t sound amazing? The active volcano, you say? Turns out watching it erupt black smoke (as it did on our way back down the mountain) was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. While were on the mountain side we got to take a few volcanic rock souvenirs and also wade, sip and wash our faces in mineral water from one of the glorious waterfalls. After spending two and a half hours on a horse in the jungle, we were pretty tired, sore and dirty, so we decided to check out one of the spa deals on the tourist strip. We found a great deal that included a spa jacuzzi bath, a sauna room and a steam treatment (sitting in a wooden box full of steam with your head sticking out is a legit toxin remover, right spa goers?) all for $10! It definitely was a relaxing end to our Friday.

Our Saturday was anything but relaxing! We got up early to take a taxi ride to La Oscilación en el Fin Del Mundo (The Swing at the End of the World) in Casa del Arbol (The Treehouse) which was an adventure on my bucket list! I was surprisingly brave and swung on the suspended wooden swing over the edge of a giant cliff. It was by far the best and most unique thing I’ve done. I highly recommend it to any of you readers thinking about joining me here in South America! After the Swing, we wanted to take a Chiva tour. A Chiva bus turned out to be a party bus that rivals that of the Purple Line and Safe Ride at WKU. A rainbow bus blasting Spanish music took us all around Banos and stopped at several attractions – all of which we did! We got to see and touch The Face of Jesus in a natural rock formation, wade through waterfalls, ride a suspended basket across a canyon AND hike to Puente de Diablo (Devil’s Bridge.) The wooden, swaying bridge over a rushing waterfall and forest of trees, was TERRIFYING. Without the kindness of the sweet Ecuadorian man stuck behind me and his everlasting pep talk, I would not have made it across. I am so glad/proud that I did, however – twice! Once we got cleaned up from our adventurous day, we started our adventurous night. We ran into two guys from our hostel, one an English teacher from Australia and the other a chiropracter from California – both living in Quito, at dinner who invited us to The Leprechaun, a popular three story club in Banos. We took them up on their offer and had a great night dancing and bonfire viewing! We got home very late that night but were excited to start our day on Sunday.

The last thing we had planned for the weekend was a trip to a Monkey Sanctuary were monkeys were being rehabilitated after being rescued from deforestation. We were able to feed and hold the monkeys which was Mackenzie’s (our resident animal enthusiast) dream come true. Thankfully, we went early in the morning because she ended up getting very sick from the altitude we were in over the weekend. While a certain part of this experience (involving a concerned cow) will remain hilarious for Rachel and I and traumatizing for Mackenzie, I’ll spare her the embarrassment and not tell the story. I will say how grateful we were for our Host Mom who organized our pickup from the bus station and had chicken soup waiting for Mackenzie.

We had an amazing, adventurous weekend that was 100% out of my comfort zone, but I LOVED every minute of it. Similarily, teaching fractions (my worst subject) to my English Learners today was out of my comfort zone – and another thing I loved. I am really learning to open my mind and heart to trying new things and close it fear. I can’t wait to see what exciting things are going to come my way in the next three weeks!

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