Alright, so it’s going to be hard to top the excitement of our first day in Baños. I’ll be honest, that was like the best day ever, and while there was still fun to be had, it was hard to top that day.
The morning was, well, a bit turbulent. Fun comes with its side effects. I’ll be honest, I was starting to regret signing up for horseback riding in that moment, but after forcing myself to eat some bread and fruit, once again I found myself shuffling off to the activity I’d signed up for.
Horseback riding was the activity I signed up for last, hesitantly. Not because I was scared, but because I’ve gone horseback riding before. Not to mention, I have this uncanny ability to be matched with horses that are assholes. If you’ve been following this blog since last year, I may remind you that I nicknamed my Icelandic horse “Bitey.”
Well we arrived at the venue, which happened to be the same place we’d had salsa lessons. Turns out they had horses in the back. I also had a sober reunion with the guy I’d danced with the night before. He came to each of us and gave us a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and gave me a little bit of an eyebrow wiggle. Heh…hehe….ehhh.
Then they matched us with our horses. I was assigned Pinta, which, after some slanted translating, we figured it meant “painted,” or “spotted,” considering she was white with brown spots. She was cute—and short, which was good. I pat her on the nose and, using some horse telekinesis, begged her not to be an asshole.
Welp, I saddled up and along with Jeanette, Jason, Emily, Jordin, and Doug, we were off to the rainforest on horseback. We started off along the busy streets of Baños, which was a little odd at first. Here we were, dodging cars and people and bikes while on a horse. Luckily our horses were pros and took it all in stride.
As we rode along, plenty of locals waved from the street or their homes. Especially little kids. They were all happy to see the horses. They would smile and yell “Hola! Buenos Dias!” and we all yelled it back. It was really wholesome.
We also saw ALPACAS. Finally! Ecuador doesn’t have nearly as many alpacas as countries like Peru or Bolivia but I was still hoping to see some. And I did. So now I can go home.
Okay, about twenty minutes into this horseback ride, I new that Pinta and I were vibing. Finally, a horse that listened to me when I told her what to do. We had a bit of a silent agreement that she could go as fast as she wanted as long as she slowed down when I told her to. It was working pretty well. I think we were similar in that regard. She was my spirit horse. Te amo, Pinta.
After some walking, trotting and cantering (I know, I was impressed with myself too) through the absolutely gorgeous scenery, featuring lush greenery and waterfalls, we dismounted near a stream. Our guide told us about the volcano that we unfortunately couldn’t see thanks to the overcast sky. Thankfully we had plenty of volcano evidence, considering there was plenty of ash scattered around us. He also filled a bottle with some of the water from the stream, which he told us was full of minerals and tasted like Perrier. He wasn’t wrong! Also stay tuned to see if that water kills me.
The walk back down was slower, because horses can’t go very fast downhill. But we had a little flat path back near where we began, which allowed for some more trotting. We also passed by a schoolbus full of little kids who stuck their heads out and said hi. It was so cute.
With one last pat on the neck, I said bye to Pinta. Overall, this was a much better horseback riding experience than Iceland. The weather was still kind of crummy, but I was at least still able to see the greenery and the mountains, whereas in Iceland we were just surrounded by low clouds. Plus Pinta didn’t try to bite me. She just liked to run, which, same.
Back at the hotel, I had my first chance to breathe in days. While most went to go exploring in the town, I did a little writing, had a quiet pizza lunch at the hotel with Bilee, Shane, Tony,and Doug. I also hung out a little bit in the outdoor patio, which is my new interior style inspiration for the rest of time.
After some time, I joined a small group of people to try some Ecuadorian hot chocolate. On the way we took a nice little stroll through Baños. This town had a lot more character than Quito. Lots of cool street art, some sculptures, colorful buildings. It was a cute little town.
Mayra had told us to try the Chocolata con queso, which is hot chocolate that comes with a big old hunk of cheese in it. Bilee, Mike, and Austin were brave enough to try it, and I had a sip of Bilee’s, but I don’t think the cheese had melted enough for me to taste it. Either way, I had just their classic hot chocolate and it was amazing.
After we returned to the hotel to meet for our spa experience. This excursion hadn’t been advertised online, but as soon as Mayra told us about it, nearly everyone signed up. The price was a steal for all the treatments we got, so it was hard to turn it down.
The experience started with a walk, which you were meant to do barefoot. Now, it was raining, so a lot of people opted to wear shoes anyway. I was still riding a confident high from all of my adventures the day before, so I went shoeless. Now the walk was meant to showcase seven different kinds of terrain from around the world. Rocks, pumice, stone, grass, moss…some other ones. I forgot some of the details. But there was this long alley of tiny little rocks that hurt SO bad. The walk was meant to both symbolize peace with struggle, as well as give you a pedicure, so I toughed it out for the sake of the experience. I was channeling the episode of The Office where Pam does the coal walk and comes out super empowered. Granted her coal walk lasted three seconds and my walk through the stones took me a few minutes, but I still felt accomplished at the end.
The next part of the walk was to, from a special spot, surrounded by the gardens and the mountains from atop the hill, scream to release all of your negative energy. We decided to do it all as a group, and I captured it on film.
However it turns out we did it in the wrong spot. This was the actual spot where we were supposed to scream. So some of us did some do-over screams. I did. I don’t even know what I was screaming at. Life is pretty good.
We walked through some more mountain views, some gardens, and lastly came to a little pool at the front of the spa building, which was meant to refresh your body and start anew. I was just happy to get the dirt off my feet.
Next we began the spa experience. We were all kind of shuffled around in small groups to the different treatments of the package. My group—Kristina, Alina, Shreena and Christina (holy crap I’m just now realizing how ridiculous that sounds) started off in the massage room, where our poor bruised and broken bodies were rubbed down from head to toe, literally. My poor guy had no idea what to do with my hair during my head massage. My hair got all tangled and full of massage oil, so that was less than ideal. But other than that, I was in heaven. When the massage was over, I sat up and I felt like a buttered noodle. In a good way. My back hasn’t felt this good in months.
Next was a volcanic mud bath. First of all, we had to put on these disposable bathing suits, which kind of felt like underwear made from surgical equipment. I didn’t want to risk staining my own bathing suit, so I opted for the weird one anyway. It was maroon, so it at least it was a color I could rock. Newly decked out, we came into the room with the mud and found Max and Trevor trying their best to samba dance along to the 90s instructional video (think Tae-Bo but Latin) while covered in mud. So we lathered ourselves up in the mud as well and joined the samba party to dry faster? I guess? I mean it certainly kept us busy.
After showering off, feeling baby soft thanks to volcano minerals, we went to the last treatment, which was the sauna box. There was a row of wooden boxes with a hole for just your head. On the inside was a little lever that you could use to control the temperature of the steam. We all went a little too hard at first and wound up dehydrating a bit. But we figured it out.
The intimidating part was the fact that we were forced to cool down. Three times. The first time, one of the spa attendants poured cold water in your lap and on your back. Like half a bucket each. The second time you had to get up out of your steam cube, follow the guy to the water trough, and he dumped three buckets of cold water over your head. And then last, the attendant took you over into a little corner and hosed you down with a pressurized shower. Like they do in prison. Poor Trevor. He had to be the first guinea pig every time. We all at least knew what to expect.
It was pretty intimidating but it was really refreshing. After leaving the sauna I was so relaxed. I took off my weird bathing suit and put my clothes back on. Then they led us over to a little recovery room where they gave us each some tea and a literal half of a pineapple. I could have fallen asleep right there.
Instead we squeezed into cabs and went back to the hotel to figure out the rest of the night. Marisa and I were really ambitious at first. We put on cute dresses like we were considering to return out to the party streets of Baños for round two. We joined up with a big group of people who had settled in for dinner at Alto Caribe, a restaurant we’d seen advertised online for being one of the best restaurants in town. It was a cute place, right downtown. And we had a front row seat to the dino party buses that kept going through down. No lie, there were like five different trams like this that kept driving by once every five minutes, blasting Reggaeton music while carting around families of all ages.
Well we were late to the party, and unfortunately we didn’t get our order taken until everyone else in the restaurant had gotten their food. But I was impatient and not very hungry, so I wound up just eating some of Jeanette’s pasta leftovers and a breadstick. When the waitress came over I was worried she was going to be mad that I was vulturing someone else’s food instead of getting my own, but she didn’t say anything. Hey, she took too long. I didn’t feel bad.
After dinner Marisa and I went on a quick jaunt to go get cash so I could pay the hotel for my laundry service and pizzas. On our way we got catcalled. A lot. I mean yeah, we looked cute. But I know I’m a guapa chica, you don’t need to tell me, creepy street men.
Well, we met back up with the group, and we had hit a post-spa, post-food daze. Ambition was gone. It was time for bed. A crew of people stayed out in the little hotel patio area, drinking tequila that Mike had bought, but I couldn’t hang. I called it an early night. No regerts.