Baños Firsts and Extremes Part I

Elliott and I like to do what we call a Birthday Week.  Yep, forget that one day stuff, the celebrating goes on for a whole seven days!  Really fun for the birthday girl (um, or boy).  Cuz during your birthday week, you get to do whatever you want, and choose everything – food and activities.

My favorite thing is new experiences.  Our extreme hike our first day in Baños was excellent, and maybe should have been part of this post series, but I know hiking like the back of my hand.  Baños was the perfect place for us to try a couple of new things.  Our first new activity was Canyoning.  Upon hearing this name, you might think it just means something where you hike through some canyons.  Nope!!  Understandable, but not even close.  Canyoning actually refers to rappelling down waterfalls.

I don’t know if I could *create* an activity that sounds like more fun!  I love nature.  My favorite things in nature are waterfalls.  Not to mention I love heights and climbing and rope course-type stuff!

Despite my excitement, the way we were sort of thrown into this activity did add some anxiety.  We were headed to rent some bikes, when it started misting, and even the bike rental shop guy was like, “Do you guys really want to do this?”  I told them the other activities I was interested in and said I didn’t care as long as I did one of them today.  Next thing I know, we had to skip back to our hostel to change into bathing suits, rush back to the bike rental place to meet a lady from the canyoning place, walk a few blocks to her shop, and start outfitting ourselves in wet suits and rubber jackets.  In Spanish.  We really had no idea what was going on as they piled one item after another near us and on top of us and gave us directions I didn’t understand.  I guess I forgot that when you get a bargain activity in a small town in Ecuador, you’re not getting English!

So it was us and several other Ecuadorians, and after we suited up we all piled into a van and headed to the Rio Blanco (White River), which I knew nothing about but our guides kept assuring us it was the best place to go.  When we got there, they said some more stuff in Spanish which I did not understand.  (Was the Spanish part of my brain just on vacation that day?  Not sure.)  Whereas I thought we were driving another 25 minutes, it turned out we were hiking another 25 minutes.  Uphill.  On a steep muddy trail.  In rubber suits.  Now I do love to hike… but I really dislike the heat.  And now that I’ve experienced this, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that if you want to change my mood from happy-go-lucky to super crabby real fast, all you have to do it put me in a rubber suit and make me hike up a steep muddy hill when it’s hot out.  It’s gonna work.  Every time.

Luckily Elliott knows me well and knew the scary Stephanie would go away as soon as the rubber-suit-uphill-trek ended.  He was right.  After our practice spot, where I discovered one of our guides did know a few key English words (meant just for giving canyoning directions), and just a few additional minutes of hiking, we broached our first waterfall.  Ahhh.  I was a happy girl again.

Our guides were a young sweet Ecuadorian married couple and they knew their stuff.  There were steel posts and eyes already bolted into the rocks at the top of the waterfall, so while he hooked our harnesses up to those, she went to the bottom and started her rope set-up down there.  Even though we were the last ones to go, no time had passed before it was my turn.  I was psyched.  Elliott was nervous.  And yet as we started “walking” backwards down the rock face of the waterfall, we were supposed to stop, let go and put our arms out, and smile for a photo!  Yikes!  Nothing like more fear when you’re full of fear.  You’ll have to tell us how we did:

Nah, it was awesome.  Wet, eyes full of water and eyelids squeezing closed to try not to lose contacts, slippery and full of stumbles and falls and inability to see anything, but they had taught us how to get back up when we fall and I was practicing my new skill.  Elliott made it to the bottom just a moment after me and we agreed this was really, really cool.

Next we did a bigger waterfall – taller and steeper.

Then it was a backwards dropping zip-line where we had to jump off our cliff to get started; Elliott was just thrilled with that one given his fear of heights!  But again, once over the fear, we looked at each other and gave each other a big grin.

Then it was a totally vertical “dry rappel” next to a waterfall, which I appreciated since I got less water trying to drown my contacts.  And finally, a rock waterslide.

Lots of group photos.  Lots of wetness, and yeah it was cold.  But it was new and different and a thrill and a half, and afterwards we had smiles pasted on our faces that we couldn’t remove.


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