Our bike trip from Quito was decievingly tricky. After the Quilotoa hike we had finished our legs weren’t quite ready to be bike bound again. Tiredness and lack of motivation remained with us over the course of the two days. Maybe the ease of hiking had been too kind to us. Reguardless of what we felt, physically and mentally, we had made it to Baños.
It’s a quaint little town. There are explosions of tourist shops and blocks composing the town as well as many different types of adventure tourism. Bridge jumping, zip-lining, jungle tours and paragliding opportunities are posted all over the streets. Many tourists rent small buggies to ride around the town with, almost every adventure operator offers them. In the mountain sides, there are subtle trails and hikes that tourists and locals alike enjoy. One of the more impressive and enticing attractions of Baños is the active volcano just north east of the town. At times, you can look at the peak of the volcano and see smoke and ash billowing out into the sky.
Volcano covered in Ash
While taking our first steps inside Baños, it was hunger that drew us to the main square and into a retaurant. We ordered and relaxed. Food was on the way and we were happy to be finished biking so early that day. The food in Baños is definitely tailored for tourists, there are many varieties and many menus have assure costumers that they wash their fruit and vegetables with clean purified water. We enjoyed our meal and set out to locat the farm we had intended to Wwoof on.
Biking back out of town a bit and uphill, we made our way up a street called El Salado. We had an e-mail from the owner of the farm, Carol, that gave us directions. They weren’t the most clear directions, but after asking a local or two, we made it to the farm. Carol’s two dogs, Geo and Lady, came rushing towards us with curiousity and barked continuously as we found a place for our bikes and gear. A volunteer showed us around and gave us the rundown of what we would be doing while we stayed, which turned out to be walking the dogs and weeding. Due to Carol’s absence we would be stuck doing garding maintenance instead of taking part in projects that Carol would normally have us do. Friday passed quickly and soon it was New Years Eve.
On New Years Eve, we walked to town and watched at the locals and backpackers celebrate. On every street there was a large paper-filled manicans, usually four meters in height, towering over the crowds. People were celebrating everywhere, drinking and dancing to loud music blasting out of giant sound systems. Another strange thing that we saw was a large group of the male population of Baños dressed up as busty scantily clad women, and, these guys would run up to you and call out, “mi amor!” Meaning, my love. I have to admit I was worried about being approached, and in the act of being harassed, being pickpocketed. Slightly paranoid? Maybe, but luckily, that night I was left unscathed by the cross-dressing men. Phew!
At the moment of New Years countdown, we were standing outside of a bar named Leprechaun, and the large manicans that we had sceen before were now in middle of the streets. Locals were pouring gasoline on them and then, as the crowd counted down to zero, lit them on fire. People roared with excitement and others began jumping over the flaming masses. Maybe this ritual is a little environmentally unsound but it sure is entertaining watching the excitement of the locals as the manicans burn into nothing. Once the manicans were complete ash, the festivities continued as if time had ceased to exist. The dancing in the streets didn’t stop that night, nor did the music, everybody was determined to get every last ounce of energy out…
And our new years resolutions? Well maybe next year we’ll make some. Happy New Years everyone!