Natasha in Ecuador – Blog 5
After this weekend I think I am going to legally change my middle name to ‘spontaneous’. Natasha Spontaneous Cox…. hmm perhaps not….maybe a tattoo across my forehead instead?? Either way my spontaneous levels have increased. Desperate to get out of Quito for the weekend we began a search for accommodation in Banos on Wednesday evening. After being told by countless hostel sites that there were no availabilities for the weekend, we were feeling a little dejected. PERO, nothing was going to stop us! Instead we came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter if we had to stay up all night, and sleep on a park bench, we were going to Banos!
Fast forward to Friday afternoon sitting on the 4 hour couch ride south: “oh my goodness, what are we doing?!” I have always been one to laugh in awkward situations or in the moments when it’s really not appropriate to be laughing – for example when you are being told off by your parents – ergo I found the situation muy amusing. On route to a foreign place in the pitch black with 12 young adults with no plan and no accommodation, HA! Genius! I literally could not comprehend what we were doing: Ecuador what have you done to the sensible, plan years ahead, Natasha? It all sounds incredibly exciting and ever so slightly mad and dangerous, but in all honesty we found accommodation – or more to the truth the owner of a hostel found us – 2 minutes after getting off the bus. Yes mum, I was safe!
Banos itself was amazing! When the sun rose on Saturday morning and I stepped out to buy some valentines treats for my volunteering family (just as a side note the heart shaped sweets I brought – traditional to Banos in Carnaval – were pretty average, just in case any of you were thinking about flying half way across the world for them) I was in awe of the small town snuggled beneath the mountains. You feel as though you are enclosed from all sides by these stunning natural towers. The town itself is small and easy to get around on foot – handy for poor tourists like ourselves. However, on the weekend it was brimming with people; the pinnical of the craziness was the pools located right underneath one of Banos’s many waterfalls. Ready for a relaxing day in the water we paid our $2 entry fee and walked up a ramp…. the sight that met our eyes will be etched in my memory forever: a browny coloured watery square jam packed with brightly coloured bobbing heads. I wouldn’t be over exaggerating if I told you that we almost donated our money to the pool and ran straight back out the door. To make matters even more ridiculous we were had to rent a swimming cap – the origin of the bright colours – in order to get in. It had to be one of the most interesting experiences of my trip so far, and for that the money and ridiculousness was more than worth it. We managed to dodge the main brown pool and hopped between a sub zero temperature, normal water coloured pool, and the hot – adults style – one. My only venture into the middle/’no go zone’ included a near miss with a young girl pulling down my bikini bottoms, and getting splashed by grandmas, whom were ‘helpfully’ sitting on the stairs and blocking our way out.
Foam, foam, FOAM!! I don’t even want to know how many litres of this substance my body had absorbed over the weekend. It is a Carnaval tradition for people – of all ages – to roam the streets with canisters of foam and completely own anyone and everyone they see, especially tourists. Children scampered around giggling their little heads off as they caught unsuspecting victims right in the face; full grown adults encouraging their kids in their ventures, or joining in the fun themselves with a canister cleverly hidden at their side. No one was safe. I myself was cornered and held down by a Swedish friend we made, subsequently I was soaking wet for the rest of the night. I will just tell you now that, while it doesn’t smell too bad, it tastes absolutely dreadful. It was my kind of crazily enjoyable madness! I was just surprised at how many people took it all on the cheek.
If all of this isn’t crazy enough for any of you, then maybe 12 of us in one hostel room sharing 5 beds is? Due to the skyrocketing prices at our initial hostel, Lucy and I set out to find a cheaper option. While the boys thought they got the best deal, we girls trumped them (NEVER send a man to do a woman’s job); other experience to tick off, as well as a surprisingly good sleep.
After two jam packed days and nights it’s doesn’t come as a shock that we were 12 muy casando volunteers on the way back to Quito. Apart from Banos itself, the most confronting part of our time away was in fact returning; I felt like I was coming home. Banos was one of the best weekends I’ve had, and I will definitely be going back. Filled with spontaneity, scrummy cheap as chips food, a ton of natural beauty, cultural experiences, way too much dancing, and a bunch of the best people, it’s a weekend I will never forget.