I got so wrapped up in Birthday Week festivities I forgot to talk about the thing for which Baños is famous – it’s baths! Yes yes, “Donde esta el baño?” DOES mean, “Where is the bathroom?” But that’s not what we’re talking about. The word “baño” literally translates to mean “bath.” And the city of Baños lies in the shadow of one of Ecuador’s 25+ volcanoes.Yup – now you see where I’m going with this. The volcano heats up those springs, giving us thermal baths. Niiiice.
We have a mini Baños in Cuenca; we call it Baños de Cuenca (betcha didn’t see that coming). We often go to one of the hotels there which has a single warm pool you can access for about $7 a day per person. In the city of Baños, we chose to visit El Salado, which has many pools of differing temperatures. The price is only $3 per person! The best part is that the whole complex sits at the bottom of the Tungurahua Volcano! Too bad the volcano was clouded in all week while we were there. We’ll go back again so we can get that awesome view another time.
Anyway, warm pools are always fun. These pools don’t smell bad (sometimes you hear about that Sulphur smell) but they do have some color from the minerals. Bathing suit alert! Wear an old one, a dark one, or one you just don’t care about. Other than that, just relax and enjoy. We got to work on our Spanish. A lot. Everyone seemed interested in us and where we were visiting from. They got a kick out of that fact that us Gringos are actually living in Cuenca.
Wow. I just realized we did not take even one single photo of the thermal baths. Oops. I guess we’ll go back for those too. In the meantime, we did take photos of the marching band outside our window that morning at 7am. Yes, 7am. Yes, they were loud even though it was a very small band. And did I mention they marched around making loud music very early in the morning many days in a row? Somehow we lucked out and were in Baños during the month of local neighborhood festivals which means there are super loud mini marching bands galore, pretty much all of the time!
Earlier in the day, we had checked out the zoo. Animals are always fun, and we love to visit local zoos. The Cuenca Zoo is nice and we’ve been there a couple times. I was convinced this little city’s zoo could not be more impressive than Cuenca’s, but the $2.50 price tag was super-alluring. And in the end I think I might like this zoo more than Cuenca’s! (Shhhh! Don’t tell my Ecuadorian hometown.)
I’m not a bird person per se, but this zoo had a lot of really interesting and cool-looking birds. We spent way more time with them then I thought we would. They were cute though! And seemingly social and friendly. Does that sound crazy?
I have a lot of respect for nature and never try to touch animals at the zoo or in the wild unless it’s a specific “pet-the-animal” experience. But what if the animals come to you? What if, say, a certain bird likes a certain barrette, and that barrette happens to be in your hair?
I’ll tell you what – it’s cute at first to take a picture, even some video, of the bird admiring your barrette. But once he’s got it in his beak, it becomes a whole different scenario, and you fret that the peacocks are going to eat the barrette, or worse yet, choke on it! Your zoo experience is lengthened while one of you watches, like a hawk (no pun intended), the barrette and the birds so that nobody gets hurt. While your spouse tries to find and tell the zookeepers, in Spanish, that their birds want to eat his wife’s barrette, without knowing the Spanish word for barrette. While you wait, and wait, and wait some more, for a zookeeper to come get the barrette out of the cage. Whew. I do not recommend it.
Monkeys! Yup, they were really cute. Elliott couldn’t get enough of them. And there were a couple of different kinds, which we really enjoyed watching. Some would play and others would laze around. It was during the watching of this zoo exhibit when Elliott reformulated his answer to the billion dollar question; that is, “What would you do if you had a billion (not a million) dollars?” He would commission a prehensile tail for himself. And I in turn agreed I would use some of our money to build him a rockin’ play structure on which to swing by his prehensile tail. Who knew those little guys could bring on such inspiration?