Walking around Baños

There are still many things to do in Baños.

Mainly people go to the hot water springs, the famous one being “Las Piscinas de la Virgen”.

Also you can take a look around the peaceful park, climb the love bridge, tour the markets and get like 16 bananas for a dollar!

Everything is really convenient here for backpacking because many hostels offer kitchens and the market sells fresh fruits and vegetables for really cheap so you can make food if you don’t want to eat out.

Also there is a big supermarket for other things like pasta and such.

There are pizza and hamburger places everywhere!!! When you feel like pizza that you couldn’t get in Quito or in other cities because it was so expensive, here, personal pizzas are around 2.75 cents. So I feasted on pizza for the four days I was here…Pizza hog haha

One thing I have realized while traveling is that it’s a little difficult to live on budget when cities don’t have markets where people sell fresh fruits and vegetables for affordable prices. Usually supermarkets are little bit more expensive and in little villages, only little stores sell fruits and vegetables, but of course it’s not as fresh or cheap.

So let’s get moving on with the visuals!

This is in the park, love bridge…at the end of it, the right side, you can jump off and hopefully your spouse/boyfriend/partner can catch you…My one ran away
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This is the Catholic church. The church has many paintings describing many incidents where the Virgin Mary helped the village from the nearby volcano.

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It’s a valley so all four sides are covered by green lush mountains. This is on the way to the hot springs.

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The waterfall right next to the hot springs.

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Closer shot…trying to see what my camera can do

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Woohoo…go camera!! Sometimes you can see people taking a shower under it and washing their feet. It’s really cold.

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This is the view of the hot springs from the staircase next to the waterfall. We went during the night so I didn’t take any pictures.

But there are three swimming pools in the place. 1 is nice hot, the 2nd one is the same but bigger and the 3rd is scalding hot. Like soooo hot that you can’t be in there for more than a few seconds. But many older people seem to be immune to it!!! I just put my feet in later and still couldn’t handle it for more than 10 minutes.

So usually you see more people in the 1st and 2nd pool. The scalding hot pool is on the first floor. The others are on the top as you can see. It’s $2 during the day to get in but $3 during the night. Maybe it’s better to go during the night because it’s a little cooler so your poor head can be a little colder than your frying body 🙂

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On our way back, there were many stores on the street selling sugar cane.

I’ve never tasted sugar cane in my life and I was so excited to try sugar cane.

I used to hear stories from my parents when they were young and always used to sneak into sugar cane farms and suck on sugar canes as snacks. Those days when we didn’t have such a wide variety of chips, sweets, and drinks.

These are the sugar cane rods.

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Sweets made from sugar cane. Taffy! You can also see people making it. They use a hook on the wall to hang the sticky sugar cane sweet and lengthen it, hook it, lengthen it, hook it until it gets chewier? Actually we also have this in Korea. It’s called Yeot (엿). My favourite in Korea is the pumpkin yeot. They also usually put bean powder over it in Korea to make it a bit more savory. Another favourite snack for the older generation in Korea.

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This is Jugo de Cana. Cane sugar juice. It’s really really SUPER SWEET and tastes a little like grass. For those of you wondering, in fact I have tasted grass when I was in elementary school. Now that I think about it we used to open the grass blade and a little white root was in it so we used to eat that…I have no idea why. Just the fact that we heard we could eat it. So every time we had assembly on the grass field we used to pick grass and eat the little part…

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That in my mouth is a sugar cane piece. I really just wanted to try one but they were selling it in plastic bags with more than 20 pieces in them. So I pleaded if I can just have a piece and yey! I got one! It was so much better than the drink. Every time you bite into it sweet liquid oozes out and you chew it until there’s no more. It’s really fun to eat. Like chewing tobacco…or hopefully the feel of it since I haven’t tried chewing tobacco.

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So there is a nearby volcano that is active. Tungurahua. You can usually see the smoke coming out of it on a clear day. Or you can see it properly if you climb up nearby mountains. You can’t go on to the volcano itself because it’s too dangerous.

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Closer shot

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P.S.

Some random shots of random stuff.

Guinea pig meat!! It’s called Gui here and is considered a delicacy. I have yet to try it. It’s more expensive than other meat. It’s around $5 or more.

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Arequipe! I was like what is this…and just bought it. It’s a little tub for 40 cents and comes with a spoon…It’s caramel. Really sweet milk caramel that you can scoop and eat. I might get diabetes after this.

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Next…we’re moving on to the next city in Ecuador! Keep tuned! Please keep the comments coming. I’m always delighted to answer comments and hearing from you!

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Baños: Paílón del Diablo!

Paílón del Diablo is one of the famous waterfalls to see in Baños. Baños in Ecuador is considered to be a place for people who enjoy extreme sports.

You can enjoy various activities here such as rafting, zip-lining, kayaking, bungee jumping and more.

Although it’s pretty cheap to do those activities here, I decided I just wanted to rent a bicycle and go to  Paílón del Diablo. It means the pan of the devil (or pot of the devil?).

It is $5 to borrow a bicycle for the whole day. There are many shops that rent bicycles and give you good offers for extreme sports.

It was really cool taking the bike, but I didn’t know it would take so long, and it’s downhill all the way. Like ALL THE WAY. What’s more is that more than half the track is just a road for cars and trucks, so it’s a little terrifying every time a huge truck passes by and whips past your ears.

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Sometimes whenever there is a tunnel for trucks or cars, there is another way right next to the tunnel for cars and bicycles to take so you can avoid getting hit in the dark tunnel by trucks.

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But one good thing about taking the bicycle is that you can stop any time any where to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

There are so many natural waterfalls small and big near and far. As you cycle along, you see water dripping from little waterfalls on the roads, like natural showers. It’s FREEZING.

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Ahhh….Too cold….

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I think I’m the better photographer lol

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More waterfalls along the way.

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Wow you butt starts hurting after cycling for like 2 hours to  Paílón del Diablo. I never knew I had to be so prepared to come to Baños. haha it sounds like I’m complaining all the time about climbing mountains and exercising despite the fact that I’m always excited the day before to start moving my body. So when I complain to Kosuke, he’s always saying…but you said let’s go…and yeh I can’t say anything to that noooooooo

Anyways you have to know I haven’t exercised this intensely for a long time so cycling for 2 hours, hiking for 6 hours is just….crazy for me.

We saw a lot of extreme sports’ stands along the way advertising 15 dollars for zip-line and such.

I was like donkeys!!! Let’s take pictures!! and found out they were horses. bahhhh

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Once we hit the town, the entrance to  Paílón del Diablo,  we went into a little store to get drinks to eat with breads we bought in the morning. We asked which way leads to  Paílón del Diablo and apparently there are two entrances. There is a new one and a old one. The woman at the counter said the new one had a better view…so that’s where we went.

We paid $2 for entrance.

On our way in.

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Along the trail leading to the famous waterfall!

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There’s this hanging bridge leading to  Paílón del Diablo. Amazing view right?

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There was no one so I decided to get as many pictures I can…The photographer was not helpful at all.

Title of this work is supposed to be: Trying to climb the Himalayas

but the photo came out as if the bridge was just straight and not tilted sharply downwards at all

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Title of this work is: Hola!

But here again the bridge does not look steep at all…and I look like a gorilla hanging on a rope…or I am one 😉

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And now the moment you have all been waiting for….

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Paílón del Diablo!

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It looks like some scene from a movie or animation!! So cool!!

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The waterfall is sooooooo fast and powerful! Can’t imagine what’s going to happen if you get whipped by it…

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We were so tired to go back by bike all the way to Baños so we took a truck taking bikers back for $2 each. There were a lot of other bikers like us who were too tired and couldn’t face the steep uphill all the way back to town. Note I said it was downhill to the waterfall ALL the way 🙂

Something you can do those of you who are on budget!

Baños!! Casa del Arbol :)

Without knowing what the future had laid out for us we started walking on what we thought would be a 2 hour track.

My final destination and the place I wanted to go to the MOST even if that meant walking for a day was Casa del Arbol.

I had seen pictures everywhere on the web. The top 27 places to go to before you die. Most daring places to go to. What to do in Baños and so on.  All of the sites were daring people to try the swing on the little tree house that looked over beautiful landscape. It was supposed to be for the bravest of the bravest. So this dare just flared up something inside me and I HAD to go.

Of course I dragged my partner who thought this would be a harmless walk.

To get to Casa del Arbol I decided, here is the important part, I DECIDED to go to Bellavista and then WALK on to Casa del Arbol. On the map I was pretty sure it was going to be a short walk. OH WHY OH WHY DIDN’T ANYONE WARN ME!!!!

So the walk from the entrance at the edge of the town to Bellavista was doable. It was quite steep and I had to stop many times to huff and puff, but it was still okay. It took less than an hour or so. So with my hopes as big as all the balloons from UP, I was ready to hike up to Casa del Arbol. Bring it on!

Entrance to Bellavista on the edge of town

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Up up and up we go to Bellavista

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View from Bellavista

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OMG!!!! I DIDN’T KNOW IT WOULD TAKE ANOTHER 2 HOURS TO HIKE UP. and there weren’t many signs so most of the time I thought I was seriously lost . We would enter a tiny muddy track  and hope that it was a road that people took to the mountain.

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Once we hit a little town, a farming place, we asked people how to get to Casa Del Arbol.

The answer was Arriba (up)…lehos(far)….mas un hora media (one hour and a half more)!!!!! What?!!! I just hiked up one hour from Bellavista….and now I have to track for another hour and a half??

After some hiking we found a road to follow…

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Up up up…never ending road

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ARGH!! I was starting to doubt whether this stupid tree house was worth it. I mean it’s just a swing on a stupid tree house. But it was too late to go back. and I needed to finish this like a fighter or give up like a loser…Actually I couldn’t imagine going back down after three hours of hiking…so the only way was up.

I should’ve taken more photos of the mountainous roads that we had to take. But I was just so exhausted I was actually crawling up.

FINALLY I see the signs.

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FINALLY THE TREE HOUSE.

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There were some tourists already from the area and they asked us how we got here because we were sweating like crazy and huffing and puffing trying to find a place to collapse. We said we walked. Their faces were like…WHAT THE….WOW….It’s really far from here….we said…trust us we know…we know….if we only knew in the beginning…

AND GUESS WHAT. IT WAS WORTH IT.

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We had to pay some donation in a plastic bottle attached to the tree.

Up we go up the tree house.

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Hola!!

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View from the tree house.

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The swing was so much FUN!!  It was so frightening at first but I got used to it so quickly, Kosuke had to drag me off it…

READY

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GO!

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Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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Scary….

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The way down was crazier. When we asked the ranger who took care of the tree house, he said there was a shortcut and it only took an hour back down to the town.

Before he told us though we had to write in the guest book in our languages and as I read it I found out the poor victims who walked up like us. They never knew it would be a 4 hour hike. And maybe if I had trained and actually exercised it would have been better,,,but my poor lungs couldn’t handle it haha I need exercise.

Just some ceremonious jumping shots on the green next to the tree house:

I was really bad at jumping…

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Ended up jumping best in this position…

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Kosuke was so so much better.

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So the way down was crazier and no it wasn’t like what the guy had told us. It was a 2 hour long steep downhill..and we seriously wondered if it was a road that was even used by anyone. It was so overcrowded with trees, shrubs and thorns, thank goodness we had long sleeves and pants. We slid, climbed and fell down and after what seemed like an eternity, we finally saw the town

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We met some cow friends on the way and many fly friends as well.

Even though we could see the town it was still a pretty long way down and once we hit the Virgin Mary Statue that we were supposed to see after 30 minutes according to the ranger…it was staircases all the way down….poor knees…it was creaking by the time we hit town.

When we looked back up it seemed like we had hiked from one mountain peak to two other peaks to get to Casa Del Arbol…

Our adventure started at 9am and ended at 3pm. It was like a 6 hour hike…Just please beware and be prepared 🙂

A different kind of life style far far away…Part 2

Our Normal Schedule

This is really cool! Usually the crab catchers tie up the crabs so that they are fixed but still living for selling. One pack is a dozen and they sell it for $5~$6 in the markets. Then the intermediaries sell it for $10 to the customers.

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This is what we do with crabs. We measure it twice or three times a week to make sure crabs in the mangroves are growing properly.

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Us trying to look professional.

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Usually they tie up the crabs right after they catch it and while they are leaving for the city to sell. You can see the crabs are muddy.

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Us patrolling during the day.

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Checking sizes again. Usually the crabs are 85cm wide and 63cm high.

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Putting up the black list or people who haven’t paid their $5 a month fee for catching crabs. We had to go out really early around 6am so everyone could see it before they left to catch crabs. Black list is for people who haven’t paid like for a year!

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People showing us how to catch full-grown crabs in the mangroves with hands. They were so quick! We had 28 crabs in less than an hour! Crab feasting tonight!!!

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Aren’t the mangroves really pretty and intricate?

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On our way to clean islands. Rubbish flows across the river from different communities and accumulate on the banks of mangroves. Why can’t everyone just use the rubbish bin!!

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Packed boat. We need as many people as we can get to go cleaning!!

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Picking up bottles filled with unidentifiable liquid in them…

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More cleaning! We had to evacuate soon after because there were so many bees and wasps!!!

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Piles and piles of rubbish!

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What a productive day!

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Finally back home!

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A different kind of life style far far away…Part 1

I want to share what has been recently going on in my life and travels while the memory is still fresh

I just came back from a volunteer trip fro 2 weeks on an island close to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

The community is a big community with two streets and with 1000 people living there where half the population is kids. It’s normal to see six or seven children in one household.

The community mainly makes money through selling crabs caught in the mangroves nearby. It’s a very macho community so only the guys work and women stay home. Guys will go out to work early in the morning, catch 50-60 crabs, go to the city to sell it and come back around 2-3pm to spend time with the family. Talk about a good lifestyle!

We were the CHINOS of the community:) All asians are considered Chinos.

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So I had the fortunate experience to stay on the island eat delicious and fresh caught crabs.

I also got to hang out with the kids. ALOT. Sometimes I played soccer all day long and just ran around. Revisiting my childhood.

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Catching shrimps in the nearby river. Using just a string, a slice of meat and a little bit of patience.

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We caught one….ONE.

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Anyways back to what I did while I stayed in Puerto Roma, the community.

My life consisted of waking up at 6am, going out to patrol with two police officers, president of the crab association and other people from the community.

People should only catch crabs with hands in the mangroves to make sure they join in the sustainable development cycle. Patrolling was a way to catch any illegal activities going on in the mangroves, mainly catching crabs with traps and nets.

If people caught crabs with hands, usually they let little crabs or pregnant females ones go to keep the crab population stable in the mangroves. However if you use traps or nets, the crabs soon die so there’s no way of letting them go.

So we patrol for those people working illegally. Then we come back do some documentation and go back to patrol and clean up the mangroves after lunch.

Patrolling….That’s  a real gun by the way…

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People taking a break after catching many crabs.

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Walking in the mangroves is not fun. Falling…falling…and more falling. The mud is like quick sand so you need to jump around to get the hang of it.

I never got the hang of it sadly. You jump and you fall.

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Have been in the same place for 5 minutes.

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Maybe it’s easier to walk on the trees…hmmm….

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That’s not all. I was unfortunate enough to wear black pants to the mangroves and although I smothered myself with mosquito repellent, I was a feast for the tons of mosquito residents residing in Mangrovelandia. ARGH!!!!! From top to bottom I was scratching like a maniac, hoping if I made wounds out of them somehow it won’t itch. Not a good plan.

More to come…:)

Preparing for South America

I know life doesn’t work as planned but hey this is why I ended up here preparing for a very long backpacking trip to South America.

So this is the plan:

Save up money BIG TIME (for three months?)

Learn some Spanish

oh and did I mention save money?

 

I have no idea how to pack for a what could turn out to be a year long backpacking trip

but as everyone who travels desires

I hope to travel LIGHT

I will have to pack so little to travel light but probably I will be able to grab necessities and other stuff throughout my journey. I’m thinking I will take a few clothes with me, my laptop, camera and cellphone. (Sounds like an electronic freak) 😀

 

I am hoping to live and travel on a budget in South America…perhaps $500 a month? It’s totally possible for places like Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru but we’ll see about Chile, Argentina and Brazil. I heard they can get pretty damn expensive.

So keep tuned! Let’s see how this all turns out. I’ll be writing about inside scoops of preparing for a backpacking trip and what actually goes on during one.