Steve says "know your limitations" (see previous entry). I think I know my limitations, probably better than most, so I've been trying to push my limits on this trip. So far, I think I've been pretty successful. (Do you agree??) Luckily, this latest installment doesn't focus on my misfortunes. It was one thing after another for Steve this week. Rafting
If Steve's calling this a near death experience, you can imagine my take on it. The way I see it, I've already had some close calls on this trip-- first on the horseback ride in Colombia and another with our latest brush with adventure, white water rafting.
I should have known that we were in for it when the guides mentioned the endless rain over the past few days had caused them to cancel previous day trips. But today, they said, was just fine.
Their daredevil spirit became even more obvious as we drove out to the site and we passed by a bridge. "Hey, want to jump off that bridge?" they said. It was a high bridge with a rocky river below, and there were a few young Ecuadorian guys handling some professional-looking (?) equipment. To me, this was an obvious no. Steve, of course, thought this is a great deal for only $15. The whole thing turned into a real tourist attraction, with about 50 people stopping along the side of the road to watch his somewhat graceful and luckily safe jump. I did manage to take a picture, although my finger was shaking. The guide said to me in spanish, "You're next?" I just laughed.
But the joke would be on me, as we arrived at the rafting site. After looking at the river, the guides said, the rapids were considered Class Five, not Class Three as they originally advertised and Steve had already talked me into doing. Class Five is the highest level of difficulty. Did we have any experience with rafting, they asked. No? No problem!
I won't repeat Steve's account of the waves. I'll just add that I had my foot wedged so far under the seat in front of me that my leg would have broken first before I fell into the water. After we hit the huge wave that knocked Steve off, it was a moment of pure panic. It's never a good thing when the guides are screaming at each other in Spanish and you have no idea what's going on.
I could see Steve's head finally pop up from the water and I totally forgot about paddling and the huge waves still ahead. I just pictured him crashing up against some rocks and breaking his leg, or getting pulled into a current, or whatever. As he got closer to the boat, his face was covered with dirt from the muddy water and his eyes were huge (Yves, probably similar to mine when we were scuba diving in Cancun and I ran out of air).
Everyone was trying to get him back into the boat, which proved hard to do. When he was finally lying in the boat, we hit another huge wave, and our Australian friend Belinda was catapulted into the water. She says she hit her head on the bottom of the boat when she surfaced... how scary is that?
After we finished this series of treacherous rapids, the guides pulled us over and decided to skip the next series of rapids, which were going to be even harder. My legs were shaking and Steve was spitting up muddy water, so I didn't disagree. The rest of the day was pleasant... but I'll never forget our guide Tito saying, "It's class five so the boat may flip, ok? We may all fall out, ok?"
Looking back, it was a pretty fun time. Thankfully it was Steve that took the fall into the water, because if it was me, I would be singing a different tune about this rafting experience.
Two asides about Baņos:
1) While rafting, the huge waves swept away the plastic bag containing our bottle of water, sunscreen and bug spray. I had already put bug spray on the skin exposed by the wetsuit but as I changed out of the wetsuit, in the span of two minutes, my ankles were devoured by bugs. Not sure if they were mosquitoes... they looked smaller... but the bites are still itchy, 5 days later. I'll gross you out by posting a picture. Luckily, this was my biggest misfortune this week.
2) Baņos is home to beautiful thermal hot springs. We spent several hours the night before rafting relaxing in the hot pools. While we were in the large public showers before leaving, I spied some shampoo/body wash. There was only one speedo-clad man in the shower with us, and I made a judgement call that it wasn't his. So I took some. As I was washing my hair, he left the showers and took the shampoo with him. Whoops. Here I am, giving gringos a bad name all across Ecuador.Riobama train ride
Our experience on Sunday plays out like an episode of the Amazing Race, and we're losing.
(As an inside: On The Amazing Race, the "Steve & Sara team" would likely be a cool, normal couple that didn't do anything too cheesy in the opening credits, such as jumping rope, lifting weights or picking out antiques together. We'd hopefully be a couple that you would cheer for. And we'd hopefully do well, thanks to Sara's keen sense of direction (true) and Steve's love of anything remotely daring. Our downfall would likely be Steve's occasional foul temper, which the TV producers would string together to create an "angry man" type sequence and decrease our general likeability. And I would be the girl who had to be pushed off the bridge/plane/whatever, because my legs would be jello and I couldn't muster the courage to jump off myself.. Or the girl who just won't enter a dark cave, or can't manage to find the 1 key in a pile of 10,000. I would put some money on us, though probably not big money. We'd do very well, but then we'd make one stupid mistake that would cost us the game, such as taking the wrong bus... see below. This mistake would most likely be Steve´s.)
After finishing rafting, we followed our rafting partners Oliver and Belinda to Riobamba, the place where you can catch the famous "Nariz del Diablo" train on Sunday morning. You sit on top of the train, throwing candy to children and winding your way to the "Devil's Nose", supposedly amazing scenery and experience. Unfortunately, after getting up at 5am, we discovered the train was sold-out. Like any resourceful Amazing Race team, we found a way to get on the train, only at a different point along the way, for the best part.
To make a long story short, we did get on top of the train and we did enjoy it. Somewhat. I think 6 hours on this train would have been butt-numbingly boring. But the joy of the ride was completely ruined by 2 things.
First, we got on the wrong bus immediately after and as a result, were kicked off the bus in the middle of nowhere.
Second, after catching another bus to take us back to the city for take #2, Steve ate an almuerzo (traditional Ecuadorian lunch) that brought his previously indestructible stomach to its knees. It's now Saturday and he's still feeling the effects of this lunch. I did eat the same lunch but after Steve chipped his tooth on the beans (!), I stopped eating. Lucky for me.
This past week, I have heard sounds coming from the bathroom that I haven't heard since that time in the CBC Washington bathroom. (Steph and Julie know what I'm talking about.... although I think this case is more forgivable because sickness was involved). For the Ottawa guys, it came close to the Magnum P.I. "wipe me" incident. Joyce, he may even have cried for you.Salsa lessons
Here's my take on the salsa lessons: Steve's a quitter. He didn't really give it a shot. As he said to me, it's funny that someone can have the balls to jump off a bridge with questionable Ecuadorian safety standards, but can't find them when it's time to spend a few hours learning how to dance.
A combination of sore stomach, no experience dancing except when totally drunk (especially when in his Macho Man Halloween costume) and the fact that there would be others in the room, Steve didn't last too long at our salsa lessons. We had our own private instructor, but he was discouraged when he couldn't even keep up with group warm up. And forget trying to learn the basic step of salsa. He lasted only 10 minutes. He looked at me and said "I'm out", waving goodbye and walking out of the room, leaving me to explain to the surprised salsa teacher that men in Canada just aren't dancers (at least, not the straight ones). This is likely a record for someone to drop out of class.
As a result, I've been going by myself every day this week to dance with the male professors here, none of whom are tall enough and are all able to move their hips more sensually than I can. I felt a little bit like Baby in "Dirty Dancing" this week but unfortunately it has not been the time of my life and I won't be jumping from a stage into Patrick Swayze's arms anytime soon.
Steve has continued to moan and groan about his stomach. (Do you think it's just a coincidence that his sore stomach has lasted the exact amount of time as our planned salsa lessons? Hmmm..... I think not)
I don't have too much to say about my Spanish lessons. Studying for hours a day on end is a change of pace from traveling, but I feel like I did learn from my teacher, Patty. At least enough to get my point across, even if it's not poetry. Unfortunately I don't know enough to badmouth Steve in the same way he can about me.
I'll finish with a confession. We've only been traveling for a month, but I have to admit I've already broken down and had a Big Mac. "Supersize Me" did scare me away for years, but there's something about endless plates of beans and rice here that make you crave the familiar. There was nothing about "cuy" (the guinea pig - see previous entry) that appealed to me and it actually made me feel sick to watch Steve eat it today.
Now we're off to the Galapagos Islands, which will be the most expensive week of our journey by far. Will Steve´s bowels sink the boat? Will Sara be entirely covered by bug bites? Will Steve be able to get over the amount of money he's spending, or will he measure every minute's fun against the amount of money he's paying for it? As always, stay tuned.....
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