8/8/2016: Flying High, Gliding Far, and Getting Swallowed in Baños

August 10, 2016

Spirit Cultural Exchange offers individuals the opportunity to help with a variety of volunteer projects in Ecuador while immersing themselves in the local culture. Volunteer projects are available throughout the year for a minimum of one week and are offered in many different fields. We hope you enjoy reading the blogs of our summer 2016 scholarship winner Mackenzie H!

Day 15:
Goooooood morning. Today is the day we are leaving for Baños, Ecuador. This morning, I woke up and ate a quick breakfast before heading to meet the 4 others (Emily, Eric, Fabian, and Veronica) at Plaza Foch. It was very nice because a friend from the school has an Ecuadorian friend who has a car. She was so kind enough to drive us the 3 hours to Baños. Even we were all squished in the back of her Hyundai, we made it work. The first thing we did when arriving in Baños was heading to La Casa de Arbol. This is the famous swing here in Ecuador where you swing over the ledge, where you could presumably fall to your death. A man was there to push you to your limits. Thankfully, I survived and definitely would do it again. Fun, but a little terrifying considering your strength, one strap in front, and one strap in behind is what held you from your falling death. On the way out from La Casa de Arbol, we got some cheesey plantains (very interesting and not too half bad).

After we left and headed to the hostel, we got a little lost and asked a man how to get there. Being a kind Ecuadorian, he showed us our way by following him in his truck-- he had a dinosaur shaped truck. I wish I had gotten a picture of it. Once we dropped the car off at the hostel, we walked our way into the main town square where we searched for a travel agency to do the extreme sports (and of course we searched for some ice cream). We ate a quick lunch of Llapingachos at a market. The streets were lined with salt water taffy, too, so we always got a couple samples here and there. We found a travel agency called GeoTours and booked reservations for Zip Lining (Canopying) and White Water Rafting. We were very interested in going Paragliding, but the weather was too windy and crummy to do it.

 We went to get a little bit of ice cream and then headed back to the agency where we were picked up by a camioneta, or pick-up truck. We made it to the zip lining part of the forest and got geared up! What a fun experience this was. There were 6 different cables that we were able to zip line on; each had different scenery and different ways of riding. We say normal, went upside down, and did the superman flying across a river. While there, we met some very fun and interesting kids, and also a Opera singing couple. (These two are very good at their professions and travel around the world singing! You can look them up at ekaterinasiurina.com and charlescastronovo.com). It has already been an eventful weekend.

After finishing the amazing zip lining through the rainforest, we headed back to our hostel before leaving for dinner. We decided on a Hindu restaurant where you eat barefooted and sit on comfy pillows. Laying down on the memory foam mats after the big meal was great too. The meal I had consisted of chicken, onions, and zucchini skewers in aluminum foil. It was absolutely delicious. After dinner, Emily and I decided to head back to the hostel because we were both tired, while the others headed out to dance. What a great day it has been.

Day 16:
What a beautiful day in the neighborhood.... or not. Today we woke up to the sounds of rain on the roof. When I looked out my window, there were swarms of mosquitoes, so first thing I did was lathered in bug spray. Emily and I headed to eat the complimentary breakfast that consisted of croissant rolls, pineapple juice, bananas, and oatmeal. We had a little friend eat with us too! After eating, we headed to the agency to gear up for white water rafting while the others finished eating their breakfasts and checking out of the hostel. When we arrived at the agency, the doors were locked and jammed so a grown man crawled through a tiny window to save the day, only to come out with a couple of rips in his jeans and shirt. We got geared up and jumped into the van to head to Rio Pastanza for our adventure. This river is definitely different than the Mississippi river back home. It was FAST, dirty, and with tons of rapids. Because it was raining all day, it was even faster than it had been the previous day.

We got all of our gear on and had a quick briefing on what to do if anyone falls off, then we headed towards the raging waters. Oh my was this experience fun. Our guide brought us to the largest waves he could find and I felt as if we were going to get swallowed and sucked in by them! Instead, we just got a face full of river water. Emily and I were in a raft with 2 Germans and 2 French people. Luckily, I didn't fall, but I did decide to jump out of the raft when the instructor told me it was okay. We made it to the end all in one piece and were told "5 minutes to change!" We weren't expecting that. I decided to change in the back of the van. While I was in the middle of changing the driver decided to open the truck door! OOPS! We hopped back in the van and drove to a lunch destination.

After lunch, Eric wanted to jump off of the bridge. This is different than bungee jumping because you fall and then swing, instead of bouncing up and down. That was terrifying to watch and luckily I was just the camera man. At least the views were gorgeous. We got the car and made our way back to Quito. What a successful trip it was.

Day 17:
Not a super interesting day at work. Today, I worked in the laboratory drawing blood again. I'm getting really good at it (not trying to brag). One woman said that no one has ever been able to find a vein in her arm, but I drew blood from it! Score :) After work, I headed back to the house to relax a little bit before heading to the food market of Santa Clara with Fabian and Emily. We got some juice and decided to make our way back. I was not feeling the best today, so returned home to try and nap, but it's really hard to nap with all of the street noises. There is another girl here at the house from Greece who is staying for one night and then heading to the Jungle to work. That's been my eventful and tiring past couple of days!

Love from Ecuador,
Mackenzie