After my Machu Picchu hike...I spent a few days traveling back up through Lima and back into Ecuador. I really enjoyed my time in Peru and am glad that I decided to do the hike. As for my health....I am feeling better, but still having dodgy stomach. I think it is just all a part of traveling....it is hard for your body to re-coop bc you are always on the go.
I contacted Brad when I arrived back in Ecuador. He is really enjoying his time in Montañita. He camps on the beach and spearfishes with some locals that he met. I think he is even trying to make some money with the fish that he catches. He told me he plans to stay there for about 3 months. Montañita is a nice town, but it doesnt have a lot to offer me and I certainly could not stay there for 3 months. So...I decided to move back up to Baños to regroup and figure out the rest of my trip.
I know I have mentioned this a few times, but I LOVE Baños. It is such a precious town that I could easily find myself living in someday. I enrolled back in spanish classes. I decided that I would do at least 2 more weeks of classes to really get some good spanish under my belt. Plus, this would give my body more time to rest. Since I was hanging out for a bit, I instantly emailed my dad to send my very first "care package". Hopefully the package arrives soon, I am expecting my ipod (I have a lot of bus rides ahead of me), another bra (I only brought one bra bc I am an idiot), and some perfume (I am done being al natural....I need something to cover up the smell of my clothes).
The first week in Baños was lovely....I spent my mornings in class and my afternoons out hiking. I could tell that I was a lot stronger at the hikes after the Salkantay Trek. I loved exploring all the different parts of nature and taking in the fresh air. I was eating healthy and really starting to feel better. However, I spent most of my time alone. Outside of my spanish class....I hardly had a conversation with anyone. Sometimes it was really nice....I got a lot of reading time in and great people watching at the restaurants. However, I had not had a decent conversation with someone since I left Cuzco, Peru.
And then....I met Tamara.
I was studying in the terrace of my fabulous hostel when I heard this woman talking and walking up the stairs. She looked to be in her early 40s and just had this boisterous energy about her. She was trying to talk spanish with the owners and checking out the hostel. She asked me how I liked it and I told her that it was lovely. Tamara was with another girl, Rachel, that she met on the bus into Baños. And then there was Erin, another girl that she had striked up converstation with in the hostel. Tamara was one of those people that made friends wherever she went. Turns out she is a very succesful real estate agent in Portland Oregon...no surprise at all.
So within 10 minutes I was drinking a beer with 3 new friends. We instantly connected because we realized we were all solo female travelers. It was so refreshing to sit and talk with other travelers IN ENGLISH. We were exchanging stories and places that we have been to. There are the 4 main travel questions that takes you from being a stranger to instantly having a connection with someone. What is your name? Where are you from? Where have you been? And where are you headed? From those 4 questions you can easily find a way to relate to one another.
We all decided to go grab dinner together and drink a little bit of wine. I was so excited inside....I was actually going to go eat with people and maybe have a bit to drink. I had needed some interaction....turns out...we all needed interaction.
The dinner was great and the wine started flowing. Rachel and I were the youngest of the group. She was only on a 3 week holiday and was leaving in 2 days. She was this crazy chick from LA...who had all these insane travel stories within her 3 weeks here, from being mugged to going to the hospital for a concussion, etc. She was a bit of a drama queen...but I liked her and could tell she was a lot of fun. Erin was also a really unique woman. She was on her late 30s but looked to be in her 20s. She is native indian and is a gardner in Whistler Canada. She had done a lot of traveling in her life and I really enjoyed getting to know her. We actually may meet up in a few weeks to travel with each other again.
After dinner we headed out to the bar. I had not checked out the bar scene in Baños yet. We found this great "gringo" bar and the festivities began. We played pool...hung out with the local guys (who love gringas) and salsa danced. We definitely made a scene that night....didnt get home until almost 5AM!!!!!! The next day, we were all walking through the plaza and heard our names several times. We were now the popular gringa party girls. The rest of the week we all hung out and went hiking and had dinner together. Out hostel has a great kitchen so we would go buy groceries at the market and cook up feasts. Some of the girls would move on and then we would meet other travelers and they would join us in our ventures.
I was having a blast...the only negative thing was that I was spending more money then I normally would have. I decided though...that this sort of thing would come in waves over my next year of traveling. I should enjoy the company because there would be more weeks of loneliness ahead of me.
This week is some other big holiday for Baños. I still never really know what we are celebrating and the locals can never give me a straight answer as well. I have decided that they just really love to party in latin america and will use any excuse in the world to dance in the streets all night long. The past few days there have been tons of concerts and parades around town. We have all enjoyed being apart of the festivites. I have been hanging out with Tamara and this Irish girl named Mirana Murhy (can the name be anymore irish?). We all fight over who is the bad influence of the group, but we have a blast with each other every night.
One of the biggest events of the year occured a few days ago. Baños has this boxcar race. Teams of 2 build these boxcars and race down this really steep hill in the middle of town. The entire town lines up on the streets to watch. Everyone stands in the middle of the streets to try and get pictures of the boxcars and then have to dive out of the way so they don´t get hit. It was a riot....we were passing around bottles of beer and praying that the boxcar didn´t crash into us. The race is actually really dangerous...the racers could crash and if they hit the spectators then someone would get really hurt. It was pretty much like the "running of the bulls" Baños style....There are pictures on my picasa album.
I have also met a few very nice local guys around the town. There is one, named Dario, that I have hung out with a couple nights. He knows that I am practicing my spanish so he lets me chat with him and he talks slowly and clear. He has also been trying to teach me how to salsa and merginue dance. He has had a lot of patience with my two left feet Hahaha. Dario is really well known for his futbol skills around town and just won the paragliding competition in the region....oh did I mention he is extremely good looking as well :)
Anyways, it has been fun hanging out with him. We are just friends and I know that I am leaving soon....so I am not going to just leave it at that.
So a few of the other travelers I have met decided that we all want to spend Christmas together in Baños. I am going to go hiking around other towns in this region for a few days and then we are going to return to celebrate Christmas together. I am not sure yet what I will do for New Years....it would be nice to be with friends as well.
After the holidays though, I have decided it is time to get on the move again. Erin, the traveler from Whistler Canada, is heading into Colombia ....I think I am going to join her. I plan on spending 10 to 15 days there and then flying down to Buenos Aires. My friend Lark from Texas, is going to meet me in Buenos Aires on January 21st.....we are going to explore that whole area together. There are soooooo many places to see in South America. I have really enjoyed my opportunity to get to know the town of Baños...but I must move on.
I will be posting more pics the next few days of the celebrations in Baños.