Back in Bizarreños
Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
88Trip End Feb 01, 2005
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Baņos again put on the great wet for me, raining as soon as we were safely inside the hostel full of screaming young Ecuadorians.
Emily and I went for a bit of a wander down the street (in search of the crazy rhino train as I really wanted a ride). On our way to the square, we came across a procession, led by a brass band, followed by the devout in Baņos holding candles and flowers and then followed by a ute with massive speakers on it, and two women in the back singing the same song and passing the microphone back and forward. A man lit a firecracker in front of the procession about 3 metres from where we were standing
We then hit the bars in search of some sexy boys. We had read that Baņos has pretty hopping nightlife and so expected a big night in front of us. We did a reconnaissance first, hoping to find a combination of good music and sexy boys. We passed a funeral home which could have passed for a bar with all the boys hanging out in front of it, and where people sat in plastic chairs and stared at the coffin on the biers at the front. In the end we entered a bar with neither sexy boys nor good music, but there were lots of people in there.
The next stop, a drink later was the small, funky Bar Good which had good music and only a couple of other gringo patrons (including a creepy guy with a bad earring in each ear job). The relaxed time here ended when the short Juan, a local student at Baņos, came in and took a shine to us. When we left he begged to come with us saying "I wanna come with you", thankfully we were firm and managed to shake him. That was until he came up to us at the next bar and stood there waiting for us to acknowledge him. I donīt know how we managed to get him to leave us alone but we did.
A little Indian boy with a mullet came in trying to flog lollies to the patrons
That bar got boring quickly, as there is so much watching a stoned rasta waiter do, so we went next door to the Jack Rock Cafe (formerly Hard Rock Cafe), where there seemed to be a lot more action. We were past dancing, so we found a table which was inconviently placed in the corner behind the door, although the creepy, 2 earring guy was there and still managed to steal glimpses at us. A crazy woman then came over and wanted us to dance with her Argentinian and Ecuadorian friends who were too shy to come and ask us themselves. A bit hesitant we told her to send them over to ask and after a roundabout conversation she took off. We used this as an excuse to strategically move closer to 4 boys drinking beers, however when we got there, there wasnīt exactly enough seats, so we had to stand around like dorks until they conveniently moved (one guy stayed at the table finishing his beer slowly, I think he knew we had an ulterior motive).
Sitting at the table we got accosted by crazy Maria again, berating her friends for being shy. She was difficult to shake and after she left a guy with unfortunate man boobs came our way and asked us what Maria had said. We stuck to the mantra "deny, deny, deny" he called her loco and walked off to tell her. So of course Maria came back and was going nuts at being called loco. Suddenly, two guys (we guessed English) got up on the bar and began to strip to "You can leave your hat on". A bartender was trying to drag Emily and I up too, but we didnīt fancy dancing beside the two guys who were really into stripping and went the whole full monty. After such craziness, it was time to go to bed.
Award for most Bizarre Museum
Has to go to the museum at the basilica in Baņos. As we had seen in the procession, there is no higher god than the Virgen in Baņos, and the place to see all this was the basilica. For 50cents, it is one of the best value for money things I have done so far. As we ascended the stairs, we were greeted by heavy metal interspersed with INXSīs Suicide Blonde and The Devil Inside, Rick Astley and N-Trancesīs Do Ya Think Iīm Sexy.
The first room contained gifts to the Virgen for performing certain miracles. On the wall were crutches inscribed with messages of a healed limb and rahdedah. We had read that 93% of residents in Baņos were employed in the tourist trade. The other 7% we thought were engravers. The second room was full of plaques and platters, gifts Iīm sure the Virgen will use (although do you really think she was a virgin for her whole life?) One guy had pictures of him and his taxi, thanking the Virgen for giving him a taxi, and another guy put all his fútbol medals in a picture frame and thanked the Virgen for making him a good player and giving him good friends.
Another room had a wall of wooden cars, trucks and busses, like you make in Woodwork, and on the opposite wall, jars of pickled creatures including a calf with two noses and three mouths and a pig feotus with elephant ears and a trunk. The Basilica has quite a collection of stuffed animals. Maybe the priest enjoys a bit of taxidermy in his spare time. There were lots of birds and other once-furry creatures with marbles for eyes. One excellent exhibit was a puma killing a monkey. The monkey had a suitably pained expression in itīs marble eyes and a good helping of red paint to represent blood.
I was determined to get to Puyo on the bikes this time. The tunnel wasnīt as scary this time. Crossing two adjacent bridges, we came across a big overland truck stopped with people jumping off the bridge in what we were told was swing jumping. One guy did a bellyflop and ended up knackering himself. The next did a beautiful swan dive and Iīm sure came out with his goolies intact. The swing jump operator tried to convince us to do a jump but then settled for telling us that there was a party at Jack Rock Cafe that night. As we were pedalling past the truck, a guy came out and told us that since he had jumped in the nude (which we hadnīt seen) we were supposed to īreturnī the favour with a nude jump.
We stopped briefly and crossed the river and waterfall in the cable car driven by a turbo car engine and then rode to Rio Verde, past a circus tent, and went to check out the Paílon del Diablo. There was so much more water than the 2 weeks previously and we got drenched very quickly. As we were climbing out of the lookout the waterfall sent a big spray of water at our retreating tails, ensuring that we were drenched to the bone.
After Rio Verde there were more downhill sections and less up-struggle sections. We kept riding even after it started to rain and we got soaked again, although it wasnīt entirely unpleasant. About 3ish we thought we should thumb the next bus, and as we almost finished pushing our bikes to the top of a big hill with the promise of a glorious glide down, we got picked up by a bus.
A nice nighttime soak in the hot baths were a necessity after being waterlogged most of the day. We went to the Piscinas de la Virgen which were lovely and hot. We arrived bang on opening time and alternated a warm soak with a cold shower coming straight off the mountain (although I almost fell in the uncovered plughole). There were lots of other gringos, including some tattooed Aussies, and we were eavesdropping on another group to try and figure out where they were from.
The Naked Driver
Hoping for a party and some sexy boys, we headed out to the Jack Rock Cafe. There we saw the naked swing jumper from earlier in the day pointing out statues of sex positions with star signs underneath to a friend. I asked him if he was deciding which one to do on the bar later that evening and he went a bit pale and then started telling his friend the story of how he had done a strip tease on the bar two nights earlier and had to shave off his goatee because he had been recognised by people in the street. Emily and I almost fell off the stool as we hadnīt made the connection earlier.
He turned out to be a Kumuka overland truck driver/guide (Alex) and his friend (Roy) was an Encounter truck driver. We asked a lot of questions about the tours and such - it was quite interesting. Average age of passengers is 25. Alex then divested his clothes again and ran around the pub with his bits out, much to the disgust of some of his passengers I think. Roy started talking to us. He was an Africa man and had left his heart in the wilds of Africa with his truck there. His passion seemed to be animals so rare that there are only less than 800 left, like the silver backed gorilla and the black rhino. I think he thought less of us because we hadnīt chosen to go to Africa.
Maybe not a pursuit as such, but a very fun cop car ride. I had turned up at the wrong police station to renew my visa, so the helpful policement drove me the 4 blocks to the Immigration station. In the car the proceeded to ask me all the vital questions. Was I alone. Was I single. How old was I. Did my friend and I want to go dancing with the two cops that evening. At the station, they had run out of ink in the stamp, and it took three cops to find some ink and fill it. I then had to go back in the police car (they opened the door for me) to the other station. We careened around a couple of corners, which almost made up for not being able to ride in the crazy Flintstones train after we had just chased it down a road the night before and not succeeded in persuading the driver to do one more circuit. At the police station, the stamp had to be signed by a high ranking policeman who was very formal, talk about inefficiency. Anyway, in the end I got 30 more days to play in Ecuador.
Things I Learned
* There is a high concentration of pan pipes in Baņos, mainly found in restaurants
* Being a girl helps when dealing with policemen and border guards who love a bit of flirtation
* Baņos is always, always, always, wet
* My shoes take a long time to dry and when that happens, I have to take the sandals and socks option, despite my fashion sense screaming at me