We decided to head to Banos for New Year, after it appeared that (a) everyone in our Christmas hostel was going there for New Year and (b) the Internet promised it was a cool place. And it was! We arrived on December 30th and checked in. The first night in the hostel wasn’t great, as a family of rampaging kids and shouty adults kept us awake til 1am… which would have been fine if the same family hadn’t woken at 5am and started shouting and rampaging again! Argh! Luckily they checked out that day.
In a slightly grumpy and sleep-deprived state, we headed to Casa del Arbol. This was something we found totally by chance, as it’s not mentioned in any guidebook we consulted and they don’t advertise it in town. Luckily, I was checking TripAdvisor.com and spotted it. It’s a treehouse built on the top of a hill, with a long swing that swings out over the descent of the hill. I’d seen pictures on the Internet, in memes and top ten lists of “super cool places” and while I knew it was in Ecuador, I assumed it was somewhere relatively inaccessible. But no! It happened to be in the very place we were going anyway. So naturally I was very excited and didn’t hesitate to queue up with a bunch of kids to ride on the swing. :) Michael was a little more restrained and waited for the adults to start queuing. And then I queued again. Because I’m a big child and it was awesome. It felt like flying.
New Year’s Eve ended up being pretty fun. First I got to Skype my family who were all a little merry, and ring in the Irish New Year. Then we had a nice meal, spending a little more on it than we have been, and then popped to the Leprechaun Bar (not an Irish bar despite the name) for a cocktail, where we were greeted with free flaming shots and ended up meeting some new friends and bumping into some people from our old hostel. The real New Year party was on the streets, however. Banos is crazy! All day men had been going around dressed up as women and there were kids in costume – and all the bar staff were dressed up. They had effigies attached to their cars and as New Year approached, they lit bonfires and threw the effigies on, sometimes with firecrackers attached. Apparently it’s their way of saying goodbye to all the bad things that happened in the previous year. It’s like a crazy mix of New Year, Guy Fawkes Day and Halloween. But it was really fun.
The following day we were supposed to go paragliding, but there was a mix up in the dates, so we ended up visiting the thermal springs that give Banos its name. It wasn’t actually very pleasant. We’ve been to a few thermal springs now and this was the worst. I don’t know if it was just that it was crowded because it was New Year’s Day, but it was just packed and seemed kind of dirty. The following day was much more fun – we started it with a massage and finished in the afternoon with paragliding – with an active volcano in the background, just to make the photos extra cool! Paragliding isn’t even slightly as scary as it seems… I thought it would be a crazy adrenaline rush, but it’s actually not. It’s super relaxing. When you’re up it just seems really chilled and calm. I went first and when I was watching Michael and the others in our group go, it seemed way scarier than doing it myself. I was sitting watching going “I didn’t do that high!” and “I didn’t go that far!” but I was reassured that indeed I had. I’d definitely do it again.
Our next stop was Latacunga, where Michael was set on doing the Quilotoa Loop – it’s a 3 day hike thing – and I was set to NOT do the hike (because ugh hiking, and also because I had a sore shoulder) and spend some alone time in the hostel! So the next blog will be from Michael, which I’m sure will be very exciting for everyone.