Audrey O'Connell is one of Spirit's 2017 Volunteer Abroad Ambassador Scholarship winners. She is volunteering at a child-care center in Quito, Ecuador for four weeks through our partner in Ecuador, Fundación Bolivar Education.
The bus ride to Banos was about three and a half hours, plus an hour to get to the bus station. We ended up getting there around 11:30 pm, and we didn’t have any plans or a place to stay yet. We heard some people speaking English on the bus, so once we got out, we asked them if they knew of any good hostals. The man said that he moved to Banos in January because he opened a restaurant there, and he offered to help us look for a place to stay. He was so welcoming, and he made sure we were safe in our hostal (even though Banos as a whole is safe) before he went back.
Our hostal offered a tour of the waterfalls in Banos on a chiva, which is a type of open-air bus that is used for tours; they play music and make it into a full experience. We had the opportunity to do something called a “canopy” during one of the stops, and it is essentially ziplining across a river. Johanne and I did it together, which was so much fun. We continued on our route, and stopped at a large waterfall to take pictures and enjoy the view. After we returned, we had a bit of downtime before our next tour with the hostal. The next tour was on the chiva as well, and we went to a place called Casa de Arbol. It has a swing that is placed over a cliff, and the scenery is absolutely beautiful because of all the mountains surrounding it. Even though there was a long line, I loved that experience. We went back and talked to a travel agency about activities that we could do the next day. For dinner, we went to the restaurant of the man who helped us find a hostel, and it was delicious! Also, there were a lot of Americans in there, and we talked to them for a while.
We decided to go rafting through a travel agency today, and it was awesome! I had never been rafting before, but this was a great first experience with it. We took a bus with everyone else to the river, and after getting dressed and learning the safety tips, we started! My raft included four other girls, our guide, and a guide in training. There were definitely parts that were scary, but overall, it was wonderful. After about an hour and a half of rafting, we got changed and went to the lunch that was included in the trip. We returned to the town and found our way back to the bus station. The bus ride home was a bit rough because we were stuck in traffic for two extra hours, making the drive five hours instead of three. Additionally, Jo and I both felt sick, presumably from accidentally swallowing a lot of water during rafting. However, we got home around 11:30 pm and found that our host mom had left us sandwiches in our room. That made our night; she is the best!