Alrighty, Richard - you guilted me into another entry! I almost put one up yesterday, but it was beautiful out, and I couldn't be bothered to sit in an internet cafe while it was so grogeous and sunny out!
So... the night tour of the volcano. Yeah, the volcano is shrouded in clouds every night, which everyone knows, so we didn't actually see it (although on the way into town we did see the damage done to the road by an eruption last August). The Â¨party busÂ¨ was a large contraption with open seats, flashing lights, and reggaeton music - and it flew up the side of the mountain at frightening speeds. Luckily for us, or guide and his friend decided to sit on either side of us (despite the fact that almost all of the other seats were empty and that the other couple on the tour got completely ignored). Unluckily for us, the guide's friend was really annoying. Not just a little annoying - really, really annoying. (By the end of the night I was threatening to push him off the bus if he didn't shut up - I seem to be coming across as rather impatient here, don't I? Can't imagine why!). There was a really nice view of BaÃ±os from the lookout - the town was bigger than either of us thought it would be. We met two American girls who were living in Quito, and they sympathized with us over annoying boy, which was difficult since he was on our heels most of the night. Then there were two guys who juggled fire - was pretty neat - my guide tried to get me to volunteer to be one of the people who stood in the middle while they tossed firesticks in front of my face, and seemed a little put out when I balked at the idea. The ride down the mountain was even faster and scarier than the ride up. The bus pulled up on a street that wasn't where the tour operator's office was, and told us that now we were on the bar street, and it was time to go dancing, to which we replied that we needed to drop some things off at the hotel, but we'd meet them back there in half an hour. And then we ran away, and had a nice, peaceful evening reading in bed.
Got up at the crack of dawn (slightly before, actually) to go to the hot springs. They're right against the mountain, and there's a waterfall coming down right behind them - really pretty. I think we were the only non-locals there - there were tons of kids, even at 5:30 in the morning. We were mostly left alone, until a group of little boys decided to talk to us. We could hear one of the older ones coaching one of the little ones on what to say to us in English (they were all probably between 9 and 12) - and then they'd all watch and giggle while he came over to ask us questions. They all went into hysterics when he came to tell us that they thought we were very pretty. My favourite part was when they asked how old we were, and then claimed to be aged anywhere from 26 to 30 - so cute!
We had our horse tour later in the morning (my antihistamines did the trick - the horses didn't bother me at all). We had a female guide (a welcome break after the 2 from the night before), and there were 2 other people with us. Our horses were quite small - felt kind of bad for them as we laboured up the mountainside! They were very gentle, although mine was really stubborn, and just didn't feel like going anywhere a lot of the time. We went up the same route we'd taken for the Â¨volcano tourÂ¨, and got to see a view of BaÃ±os during the day. The countryside is beautiful - every square foot that can be cultivated has been, so the hills are a big patchwork of different fields. And they use bushes and trees to separate a lot of the fields, instead of fences, so there's all these varying greens - really lovely. Saw some gorgeous waterfalls, too, and the river. Lots of mandarin trees, and a fruit called tomate. The path we took down the mountain was pretty steep, and a little slippery for the horses - I saw Erika's trip a couple of times. It was a gorgeous morning, though, and a really nice way to see the valley (although we can feel it in our legs today!).
Wandered around town for awhile after that - bought some of the toffee that they make in town - you can see people everywhere pulling toffee from wooden pegs in doorways - very tasty. After lunch, Erika went for a bit of a nap, which turned into a rather long sleep when I gave her an antihistamine, because something in the room was bothering her (those things knock you out if you're not used to them). I went back to the hot springs in the evening - sooo different from being there in the morning - super, super crowded, and really noisy, but fun to just sit and observe - I actually ended up staying there almost 3 hours (looked like a bit of a prune at the end of it!). Went out for some food after, then a bit of dancing, then off to bed.
Caught a bus to Tena this morning - about 2 hour east and 2 1/2 hour north of BaÃ±os. I went to a pharmacy yesterday and found the equivalent of gravol here (after I hunted down the word for motion sickness, because we've found that people can be quite obtuse here - you can explain to someone that you have an upset stomach and nasuea and vomiting from riding in a bus and from the movement of the bus - all in Spanish - and they look at you like you're crazy and they have no idea what you're talking about). So I was slightly tired from the pills on the bus ride, but thankfully not ill at all, which was a good thing, since a good portion of the road was dirt/gravel, and very, very bumpy. It was pretty neat seeing the change in vegetation - we've definitely moved more into jungle - vines on everything, and extremely thick vegetation, and the humidity is insane - the air is damp here. It was raining when we got here, with thunder and lightening and the works, but it didn't last very long. We wandered around checking out various jungle tours. In the end, we've decided to do a full-day rafting tour tomorrow, and then go down the river ourselves to a park where there are supposed to be lots of animals. The tours all seem pretty highly organized and not very remote, and both Erika and I have realized that we are not organized tour people, and that we're both going to be bitter about spending a bunch of money to go out into the jungle with a bunch of people we don't want to be around. It sounds fairly easy to catch a bus to this little town that is the jumping off point to head down the river in motorized canoes to a park where there are guides and lots of animals (which is what I really wanted to do). So that's our plan for the next few days, and we'll see where we go from there!
I'll give Erika the task of reporting on our rafting trip tomorrow