Thursday, October 24, 2013

Can you believe this ash-hole?

So you're going to think I'm just full of hot air, but last weekend* Kelly and I got to see an actual volcano erupt! We spent a long weekend in Banos, a beautiful city in central Ecuador known for its hot springs which are without question currently being peed in by at least 10 Ecuadorian children. You may gather that we didn't have the best experience at the hot springs, which are essentially warm, non-chlorinated, crowded public pools. But the real draw of this city for us was its natural beauty. Banos is home to more than 60 waterfalls, is known as the gateway to the Amazon (which we'll be hitting up in due time), and is located on the foothills of the very active Tungurahua volcano.

Not the best picture due to the cloud cover, but that distinct black puff back there is volcanic ash.
Our first day in town, we threw some snacks and rain gear into a pack and headed up the volcano. Throughout the day, we kept hearing what we assumed was thunder off in the distance. I joked to Kelly that maybe it was the inner rumblings of the volcano. We stopped for lunch at a small hostel/cafe/commune on the way back down the mountain, and just before our food arrived one of the locals popped his head in the door and motioned excitedly for us to come outside. He pointed up to the sky, and lo and behold there was a big black mushroom cloud of ash! After he did some explaining in the most basic Spanish possible for us gringos, we realized that the sound we had been hearing all day actually was the rumbling of the volcano. Apparently, the volcano has been fairly active since 1999, and once or twice a year it goes through eruptions of varying degrees. Luckily for us, this was just a very small eruption, and we were extremely thankful to be witnessing something so unique without being in danger.

Aside from volcano-viewing and pee-swimming, there is a ton to do in Banos. Most of it revolves around adventure sports like rafting, mountain-biking, zip-lining, and canyoning. We chose to do the latter two. Zip-lining over mountains, rivers, and waterfalls was obviously amazing, but for us, canyoning was the highlight of the trip. Canyoning is essentially repelling down waterfalls. For $30 per person, we were driven by a tour company out into the forest where there is a series of 3 waterfalls that are 50, 65, and 150 feet tall, respectively. I wanted to put an exclamation point there, but it just doesn't fit in after the word respectively. Not only was this an extremely beautiful setting, but we got to get right in the thick of it by donning wet suits and repelling down the waterfalls attached to a safety line. The 150 footer was admittedly a bit terrifying, but well worth the adrenaline rush that stuck with us for the rest of the day.

The 150 footer

No seriously, she's having a great time!

As usual, Ecuador continues to amaze us and give us the opportunity to do incredible things at an extremely low cost compared to most other tourist destinations and the U.S. On the docket for the next two weekends...the cloud forest in Mindo and the Amazon rainforest, respectively!

*Editor's Note: I actually wrote this blog a week ago and forgot to post it, so Banos was two weekends ago, and we went to Mindo last weekend so we're a week behind. Which means we're going to the Amazon this weekend!

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