Aventuras en Baños

Three weeks in Baños. Excited.  I loved this town in my 2011 visit.  Three weeks of classes in a perfect environment.  My biggest concern will be avoiding all the distractions the town offers.

First night accomodations, Posada J.  I spend a little more since it is just for one night.  And splurge on a massage.  The hotel’s spa is beautiful.  Bliss.

The next morning, class starts at 9am.  After I took a few days off in Alausí and Riobamba, it takes a few minutes to get into the swing of it again.  After class, I move to my homestay with the owner of the school, Elizabeth.  The week is filled with class, studying, running, exploring, and a trip to one of the hot springs with Elizabeth and one of her friends.

After one week, I decide to return to my hotel.  It’s in a much quieter neighborhood, and they offer me a great price for a 2 week stay.  I fall asleep nightly to the sound of the waterfall.

My friend Joshua and his parents arrive from Cotocachi.  I met Joshua in Honduras; his parents are in the process of moving to Ecuador.  I am glad for the opportunity to have company for a few days.

They invite me on a chiva tour they booked, to see the waterfalls. $5.  We spent 15 minutes in the open air truck circling town while they try to gather more passengers.  South American tours at their finest.  Finally we leave, with music blaring so loud we have to shout.  We stop at several waterfalls, but mostly we stop at ziplines.  The Chiva company obviously gets a kickback from the zipline companies.  Still, the falls are beautiful.  The final one, Pailon del Diablo, is amazing.

During the tour I flirt with a woman.  After the tour, her friend runs up to me, gives me a piece of paper, and runs away.  The paper has the woman’s number.  I call larer, but no answer.  She doesn’t call back.  Oh well

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I am growing more confident in my spanish.  In the afternoons at stores, in restaurants, and in the streets I talk with people.

Dinner.  Italian restaurant. I have had my fill of chicken and rice.  I am the only guest.  I talk for over an hour with 19 year old Tatiana.  I appreciate her patience.  She offers to loan me grammar books that explain concepts in English and Spanish.

Art gallery.  The employee encourages me to stop back for more conversation; we talk several more times before I leave town.  Café.  Elena and I talk chocolate.  When her sister and niece arrive, we talk for 30 minutes more.

Yay for Ecuadorians being so friendly and patient.

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Day trip.  Salasaca is known for a strong indigenous culture and beautiful wool weavings.  I explore the market and find 3 to consider.  Distracted by live music, I cross the street to find a wedding in progress.  An obviously American voice behind me says hi.  Leann has literally just stepped off the bus.  We explore the market together; she helps me choose a tapestry.  I help her choose a shawl.  We eat lunch together.  She came to Salasaca to volunteer at a school.  After a few hours together, we say our goodbyes.

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I do a zipline tour, which is called ‘canopy’ in Ecuador, even if it is nowhere near trees.  It’s fun, but I have done much better.  The day after, I go canyoning, but that is a different post.

After a false start with a teacher, I switch on my 3rd day. Good call. Liliana and I mesh well. When you spend 20 hours a week alone with your teacher, you need to be comfortable with her. She is a good teacher, works hard, is super-smart, and is really patient with my questions. In no time, I have a bit of a crush on her.  OK, a big crush.  Alas, she is married. Classroom time is broken up with walks in the city and through the market for real-life conversation.  One day, another student teaches us all – in spanish of course – how to play poker. On my final day, several of us visit a waterfall just outside of town.

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Final days. I waited until the end to go paragliding.  First booking attempt, Edgar is boomed solid. Second afternoon, we sit for hours waiting for the wind to drop. Only two people get to go. I decline to go since the others are leaving the next day and I can try again the next night. I now have two new friends from Hungary, Judit and Attila. The joys of travel.

Next afternoon, 3 of us. While waiting to fly, 3 Kichwa kids from a neighboring farm visit. We play, taking turns chasing each other. It’s the most I have laughed in months. My flight is too short. I end up talking with Clara, from Colombia. We have dinner and drinks after flying. A new friend. Yet another reason for me to visit Colombia. We try to make plans together for the next few days, but our itineraries don’t mesh.

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Final day. I say goodbye to the staff at the hotel. They have become like family. I have gone to exercise classes with Janneth, Anita helped me with my homework, Juan Carlos is always happy to talk. They know how I like my breakfast. I am surprised to find myself almost crying.

On the bus to Parque Nacional Cotopaxi.

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