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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Banos or Bust

Birthdays, for the most part are pleasant things. We can celebrate the fact that we're still above ground and breathing oxygen (a various forms of diesel smoke, if you're here in Cuenca). They're also a time of reflection, for some, analyzing the prior year and looking ahead to set goals or make wishes for the future.

In this general vein, we set off to celebrate one of our friends' birthday with a bicycle trip to Banos.(The near one, not the one that's five hours away by car, or the other one, that's somewhere in Ecuador, but I'm not really sure where - yes there are three with additional names that keep them straight.) Apparently it's only an hour and a half bike ride, which sounds fairly pleasant and when one arrives in Banos, one can partake of the various thermal pools for which the town is named. (Banos = baths.)

Okay, a bit of bare honestly here...I haven't been on a bike since our trek to the three volcanoes back in February, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about being able to make the distance, but really, it's not that far outside of Cuenca and I've been working out, so I kept that little worry to myself.

The ride, for the most part was pleasant. (If you exclude the monster hill we had to go over to reach the town.) We mostly got to ride through bucolic country side with fairly little traffic and we even got to wave to our furniture as we passed near where it's being stored.

I've never been to Banos, at least until this little jaunt of ours with a group that I christened the Fellowship (a la Lord of the Rings). So once we cleared the HILL we cruised down the other side in to a pretty little town with a blue church and many thermal pools. Some of us decided to go to soak immediately, while others wanted nourishment. (A quick stop at an empanada vendor apparently did not fill the bill.) So Ron and I and a few friends (including the birthday girl), went in search of food.
Pretty Banos
Successfully nourished, we returned to our spa of choice and were faced with a perplexing decision...did we just want access to the bathing pool or more of the spas resources, like the extremely hot and cold pool, or the sauna or perhaps all three? Having felt the water we opted for the piscina (pool) as it was getting late and the cost was $8.  Very strangely, once you've spent a few minutes in a fairly warm pool, it doesn't see so pleasing and we started yearning for the extremely hot pool. But it was not to be, once we had made our decision, unless we wanted to cough over another $8 per person, our hot pool desires were to be quashed. (This is one of the weird quirks of Ecuador, once you make a decision, it's pretty well it.) Had we opted for the "all in" selection, the cost would only have been $14, but if you choose one thing and then want something else, you're going to pay. Why we couldn't just pay the $6 difference is still beyond us. (But let that be a lesson for you.) We opted to stick to the large middling temperature pool, as we knew we'd have to leave in fairly short order.

We took a much quicker return trip, by returning via the main road, which might sound scary, but it was actually pretty good as it was mostly down hill and because it was Sunday the traffic was light. We followed all this up with a birthday party (and a rousing knock out tournament of table tennis aka ping pong) and a good time was had by all. Until next time!

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