After my lovely stranger ensured my safe arrival to Baños, I realized that I’d been dropped off three blocks from the bus station. There was no other option except to trudge up the street with my bags in tow.
I finally found my cousin towering above the crowd of people when I arrived at the bus station 15 minutes later. I should mention that I was of average height in Ecuador (all 5′ of me) and my cousin measures up to 5’10”, so she wasn’t hard to miss. Combined with my frizzy hair and wide-eyed facial expressions, we continued to draw attention everywhere we went in Baños.
New Year’s Eve in Ecuador
Ecuador has a reputation for throwing wild parties on New Year’s Eve. I’m not talking about your typical night out in the big city; people dress up as viejos (old men) or viudas (widows), bonfires line the street, and apparently colored panties have the ability to predict how the year will transpire. Since I had arrived in Quito the night before, I decided to forgo the festivities since I didn’t know how to chew on what I was witnessing. However, I saw the remnants of these party-goers when I arrived in Baños the following day. Ash lined the streets and leftover party favors were found draped over tables. Every time there was a gust of wind, the dust would blow in our faces.
Letting the Streets Lead Us to the Water Source
We quickly dropped off my bags at the hostel and grabbed a quick bite before exploring the town. If I had to describe Baños in one word, it is simply BEAUTIFUL. Situated in the center of the Andes, Baños lies at the heart of Ecuador’s “throat of fire” and is closest to the active Tungurahua volcano. Waterfalls decorate the mountainsides, and you can often find a staircase leading up to a lookout point.
During our afternoon walk we found ourselves at La Cascada de la Virgen, which supplies the neighboring hot springs. By the time we reached the top of the staircase, sweat and ash covered us from head to toe. Of course, we didn’t notice given the magnificent view. The mountains loomed over us with their lush greenery and waterfalls were found sprinkled along their sides. The town below was bustling with life and humming with the daily goings on. Behind us, the falls crashed down the sides of the mountains and kept lightly spraying us with drops of water.
Bathing Under Waterfalls in Baños
While taking pictures, we noticed a bunch of women bathing under the waterfall. I don’t mean staging a Victoria’s Secret commercial; they were actually bathing, with shampoo and everything.
Normally, I would hang back and hide in a corner somewhere. I hate causing scenes and I’m usually more reserved in large crowds. Not this time; I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. I was in Ecuador and had the chance to bathe under a waterfall. How many times would I get to do that in my life? Diana climbed back up the steps and shoved me towards the waterfall where Sandy was waiting. I soaked it all in: the pure water cascading down from the mountains, the view, and the thrill of showing these people my true spirit.