Bull fights, Bike rides and communal bathing...

Banos Travel Blog

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We stayed in Quito for a couple more days (mostly to get the cash together to pay the travel agent for booking our Galapagos trip !) and did a bit more exploring.. we didnt bother going to the famous equator line (saving that for Brazil) as we heard from one and all that it is basically shit :-) so instead we climbed the basilica, heath and safety.. nahhhhh this involved literally climbing metal ladders up to the bell towers where you could go out and sit on the ledge with the 200ft fall at your feet.. great fun.
It was the 174th festival of Quito while we were there, and and so there were lots of parties in the street, also Quito had won the football leage for their first time in 40 years ( take note west Brom !) so it was a bit of a party mood we were enjoying. Right next door to the hostel was a bull ring, and they were having 3 nights of bull fights and wine tasting.. now I have never seen a bull fight and I dont really know what  think of it, I know its cruel to the bull, undoubtably, but I dont know how I feel about the spectacle itself and so decided to watch. The good news was this was a basque style bull fight, this means young bulls were in the ring with trainee bull fighters and no one got hurt (phew) including the bull. Of course, being stingy stinky back packers, we didnt pay to see this, we watched the performance from the rooftops by climbing off our hostel roof onto a neighbouring building rooftop ( great view :-)and buying 2 litres of crappy wine from the corner shop, to have our own wine festival ! was great fun ( especially when the bull got behind the barrier and all the TV people had to jump out of its way,,, yay Bull !!! also was a bit hairy getting off the roof after 2 litres of wine, but on the whole a great  evening.. but I think im decided against bull fighting as even though no one got hurt, it was still pretty shitty for the bulls.
So with a hangover we set off the next day for a looooong bus side to the backpacker haven called Banos ( its pronounced banjos, which means toilet in spanish, so I was not too sure of what it would be like. ) Its a charming little spa town nestled in amongst towering andean peakes and is famed for its hot springs and visions of the virgin mary. The town is set up for tourists, both foreign and local, so has all the amenities you could wish for and we stayed here for a few days.
Highlights included :
1) Taking a bike ride down the valley : this was great fun as me and H met up with Damian and Sarah from Galapagos and all hired bikes to go down the valley. we did about 35K (mostly downhill fortunately) and included such fun stuff as going through pitch black tunnels in the rock with no lights and huge trucks coming up at 60K behind us ! We saw some spectacular waterfalls and met an american hippy who owned a garden with the best view of one waterfall, who invited us to join him in his quest for the ultimate truth ( or some such acid inspired nonsense) by looking at his gallery of paintings that will guide us and show us the way... yep... the way to the exit !!! what a loon !!!

2) the famous hot springs - these were great, they open from 4.30 am to 6pm then again from 7pm to midnight. The first time we went was mid afternoon, its a very informal affair, 2 pools were open, one about 20 deg the other about 30 and both had the colour and consistency of chicken stock ! as it came to closing, they drained the pools so it was a bit like being in the bath when you pulled the plug, the sight of an aged ecuadorian man lying in the last 2 inches of water at the bottom of the pool will stay with me for a while !
we went back in the evening also, and here it is a totally different place ! the "day" pools were closed and two smaller "evening" pools were opened, these were SO HOT ! and rammed full of locals :-) no joke, in a round pool maybe 4 meters in diameter would be about 30 to 40 people ! so we joined in !! ( the only gringos there !) and it was great ! very friendly ( well it had to be) and incredibly hot ( fortunalty there were cold splash pools and a waterfall that you could cool off under) Im sure it was very healthy, but i felt like I was going to have a heart attack !! oh yea, and I got chatted up.. by a MAN !! dóh !!

3) Beer , Beer and more beer ! its quite a party town and there were a fair few traveller types that we met up with and got very drunk with.. including singing spanish Karaoke ( H managed a duet of la camista negra by Juanes.. I did stairway .. ROCK ON !) and lots of salsa..ing ( unfortunatly I was dancing with a man ! but hey ho.. all V Friendly after the slightly menacing feeling we got in quito of an evening...

4) the church and museum - this was a riot.. the church was filled of painting of the blessed virgin saving locals from trageties like car crashes, bridges collapsing, volcanoes ec.. a regular supervirgin ! and the adjoining museum basically has lot of christening dresses ( yawn) and one of the worst (so bad its godd) taxidermy exhibits we have ever had the pleasure of seeing.. including a cockroach diorama, some very skinny llamas, a puma attacking a monkey ( my fave as they ran out of eves for the monkey , so it has a yellow marble in one !) and a specimin jar with a huge python in it, but only half full of embalming fluid, so the top of the snake had gone a bit mouldy !! Brilliant !!!!

Anyway, on the whole a great place to rest up for a few days before we head off to Riobamba for a rooftop train ride... woo hoo and then on to ecuadors colonial gem, cuanca !!!

hasta lueago !!

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photo by: timbo