April 4, 2007

I always just assumed that with a name like ‘Baños’ there would be baths of some sort lurking in this town. It wasn’t until talking to
a new friend I met along the way that I realized the name of this town could bring something else to mind. After all, she was curious
about this town because of it having the same name as the toilet facilities. Funny that I never even thought of that despite coming
face-to-face with ‘baños’ signs numerous times every day for the past couple months.

The good news is that this town
does have more to do with baths than toilets. Phew.

But let me talk about my first impression while on the bus heading out to this town. Nothing about the bus ride was super incredible
(it turns out I was reading about
another bus journey that had spectacular views – oh well)…but then I noticed something. It
looked like a cloud shaped like a very fungus-y mushroom. The guy across from me noticed my fascination with this cloud. He then
shed some light for me. It was, in fact,
not a cloud. It was the output of the local volcano. The local active volcano.

Upon arrival, I became aware of a food that was being sold at practically every shop. It was a taffy-type of candy made of sugar
cane. The people stretch and pull this stuff and you can watch it being wrapped up, too. It reminded me of watching something
similar in Yangshuo (China) with the ginger candy that they make. I have to make a confession – I was a bigger fan of the candy in
China. But that didn’t take away from sampling a new taste in another part of the world. When out here, you see how abundant
sugar cane is. I actually even bought a bunch of cut-up sugar cane pieces and sucked the juice right out of those bad boys. Good

Blackberries also seem to be very abundant out here. You can find them in the form of a fruit, syrup and even fresh juice (or ‘jugo
mora’ as it is referred to out here). A person would have to be a fool to leave this town without trying this juice first.

I went on a night volcano tour with hopes of seeing some glowing red stuff coming out of the top. After all, this was what all of the
pictures in town displayed. We all climbed into a flashy open-sided vehicle with colorful lights radiating from it. And some local
tunes. Shouldn’t there be alcohol served on such a vehicle? Well, at home there would be. But here, this vehicle is just to take us up
to the top of a viewpoint. We tasted a local drink (of the alcoholic variety) – I forget the name but it was served warm and it was
much better than I was expecting. The warmness was also a nice contrast to the rain that was coming down. The view was a bit
less-than-to-be-desired. There were clouds in the sky and absolutely no red. Bummer. I guess my mushroom clouds this afternoon
were the most activity of the volcano that I was going to see. At least it was something, right?  

April 5, 2007

After starting my day off right with a ‘steam bath’ it was time for me to head out for my four-hour horseback ride. And a ‘ride’ it

I was shown to my horse, Benito. At first he seemed ‘muy tranquilo’. But then early on that took a turn. Let me just say ‘my poor
groin muscles’. They will not be liking me tomorrow. Let me just say that my little Benito likes it a bit rough. For almost four hours
my very inner thighs (okay, this is just a nice way to say a certain private part of my body) was going
Smack! Smack! Smack!
against Benito’s back. What a treat for Benito, huh? (Okay…maybe it was
a bit of a treat for me, as well.) Anyway, on the way down
going back into town something dawned on me. Benito was either blind or extremely dumb. I think it was the latter because if he
was blind, I don’t think he would have been able to lead me as far as he did at that point. The problem was that on the way down he
either wanted to go towards the cliffs or he wanted to walk right into the rock walls. Um, whatever happened to just staying on the
path and following that? It took a lot of steering on my part to keep Benito from leading me on some ‘adventure’ path on the way
down. After all, I
do have a Galapagos trip that I have to tend to tomorrow. And it would probably be best to do this without
breaking any bones from getting thrown off of a horse. Who knows…maybe Benito had an ulterior motive? Jealousy, possibly?

It’s now time to get a few things wrapped up before my bus ride back to Guayaquil. I was going to take a bus that would bring me in
at a reasonable hour in the morning but I have opted out of pulling an all-nighter. I could just see myself on a bus that breaks down
and causes me to miss my Galapagos flight. Better to not have to worry about such things…

April 6, 2007

Holy soreness! Even though I am not in Baños anymore, I am left with memories in the form of pain in my lower back, upper back,
arms and (most of all) my 'very inner thighs'. In fact, I am pretty convinced that the last area I mentioned is bruised with the pain
that I am experiencing. Benito, Benito, Benito. Talk about giving me a wild ride!
Back to Ecuador.
The active volcano.
Me and Benito.
The main square in Baños.