Monday, October 13, 2008
A Weekend in Baños, Part 2: Getting Aquainted with the Town
After the lunch we walked around a bit and met up with more of the volunteers that were in town for the weekend. It was getting late and we were in no rush, so we didn't bother to find anything in particular to do. We walked over to the waterfall and had a good view of the town, which is very small, and then walked back towards the center. The town is known for its natural baths, hence the name Baños, but we never wound up going in them. They didn't look that appealing after going to Papallacta, which had much nicer baths.
Window shopping and getting a feel of the city, we decided on mountain biking the following day. Going with Exodotours, we worked out a deal for $22 to rent bikes and trek half of the 61 km to a town at the edge of the Amazon Rain Forest called Puyo. From the last waterfall on the route we would be taken in a truck to Puyo, where lunch was included, and check out an animal reserve with monkeys. It was a good deal, and we would have a guy following us to make sure nothing went wrong. If we'd just wanted to rent the bikes it would be $5 for the day, but we went for the higher end deal. Leaving at 9:30 a.m. from Baños, we would return from Puyo at 5 p.m.
For the rest of the afternoon we strolled and had a few beers, and after a good dinner, we were too tired from the long day to do anything else. Because it was a holiday weekend, the town was electric and ready for a party, but we couldn't take part.
The town of Baños felt very safe, even though there were tons of tourists around. The economy of the town depends on tourism, so safety is important there. Though I wouldn't want to spend an extended period of time in a touristy town, it was a nice break from what we've been doing over the last month. I felt like I could actually take out my camera and leave it around my neck, and though I had reservations at first, I realized that I'm blond and no matter what, people will know I'm a tourist from a mile away.
It´s a funny town because it almost feels like Disney Land. Everywhere you go are tourists off to do extreme sports or some kind of excursion. The town is sort of like the equivalent to Interlaken, Switzerland, where tons of backpackers head each year to do extreme sports like skydiving, canyoning, and paragliding. Literally all day long people drive by in ATVs, motorcycles, or go carts that they use to tour the surrounding areas, and since the roads are so narrow, it feels like you´re actually walking across a track meant for them. The motors roar all day, but it doesn´t ruin the tranquility of the town. At night in Baños, the church is lit up with purple lights, and actually looks like the magical palace in Orlando.
In the morning we woke up early and had a great breakfast on the rooftop of the hostel. I got two pancakes with sugar cane syrup, but it kept reminding me of a rum I tried in Grenada that was made of sugar cane, and after one pancake I was too full to continue. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was heating up quickly, and I realized that I hadn't brought any sunblock. A big mistake.
A friend had told me it was cold there and it totally slipped my mind. I had to mooch some sunblock off of the others, but it didn't do, and by the end of the day my arms and knees were pinkish-red. You'd think I'd know better by now, living on the equator, but I'm still an idiot about it.
The tour agency was right across the street from the hostel, so we moasied over around 9:30 to pick up our bikes and get started. After very quick test runs down the street to make sure they actually worked, we put on our stupid-looking helmets, which probably wouldn´t actually help in an accident, and headed out.
Read more in Part 3...
Above: The start of the bike ride, The view from the rooftop restaurant at the hostel, A man eying some tantalizing street meat,