After the Amazon, we decided to relax a little in a mountain city called Banos which can be considered as the backpacker's mecca. We went to the thermal baths where hot springs meet cold waterfalls, strolled around the city, drove up to the tree-house with view towards one of the highest volcanoes in Ecuador, which is not very active at the moment, and did some zip-lining.
Zip-lining was very remarkable as we were given the opportunity to do regular zip lining, as well as upside down , superman position, and the both of us at the same time. 2km of zip line over valleys, forest and waterfalls, definitely a nice thing to do while in Banos and we would consider it our highlight here! Thanks to Juan and Luiz for guiding us through the zip line activity!
Furthermore, we got to witness a tiny parade in honor of the Virgin Mary (with someone singing via speakerphone, very unusual to us!) and as we were there during the dia de los muertos, the city was quite vivid.
For everybody not aware o the dia de los muertos: It is believed that the souls of the children that passed away come back to their families on the 31st October. On the 1st of November, one day later, the grown up souls follow and on the 2nd November, people visit the cemetery, eat and sit together and have fun, rather than cry. Reason being that it is believed that the passed away family members can feel your emotions, and if you cry, you make them cry. If you are happy that they are here on that special day, it makes them happy. This is just one of the many interpretations, but I like this one a lot.
What else can be said about Banos? It is a nice, safe and clean city, but if you want to see the true Ecuador, I would go somewhere else. Many restaurants offer 'americanized' food and even if you talk to people in Spanish, asking for directions for example, they answer you in English if you want it or not. So after all, it does not seem like being in Ecuador, we always wondered where the majority of the people live and if there is any other way of generating profit than having a hostel or a tour agency here. Nevertheless, it was a nice stop, of course and good for a 2 days break.
I see the sea... after 12 hours of bus ride
As we had some days left to spare prior to visiting Galapagos, we agreed on going to the beach. The best connection were from Guyaquil to Montanita, a little hippie village which is very popular among surfers. It tends to be overcrowded with party people but due to the fact that we are traveling off season, it was alright. The beach is good, similar to Romania I would say, nothing special but totally alright for a few days.
Highlight here would have been a free parasailing flight which was offered to me! First parasailing experience ever, even the coast guards took a video and photos so I feel very famous:) Whereas I said no when asked (because I was skeptical of why the trip would be free), Johannes said yes on my behalf. So the parachute was attached to my harness and off I went! It was beautiful, despite the slight drizzle, water was nice, clear and warm.
For everybody who is coming to Ecuador and desires to see the beach: If you love partying, Montanita is perfect. Also if you love surfing but be aware that everything here costs three times as much (15$ for sunscreen or repellent is totally normal, as well as 90$ for a surf lycra top, which usually costs 30$). If you drive 30 min further by bus, you reach Ayambe which is supposed to be very nice. The best beach I heard off is les Frailes, about 1,5 hrs away from Montanita which was originally our destination, but the Weather God doesn't like us too much, at least not when around the beach...