I have so much to share regarding my expereince in Ambatos and Banos this past weekend in celebration of Carnaval. I will account my experiences in chronological order I anticipate that will be helpful in conveying my thoughts more vividly.
We took a bus from Cuenca to Ambatos, Ecuador Friday evening, literally speaking early Saturday morning. The bus ride was a long 6 hours. We arrived in Ambatos at 6:30 AM Saturday morning after a sleepless night in a terribly crowded bus. We immediately checked into our hotel located near the bus terminal and slept until noon, although that amount did not fully suffice it was at least able to re-energize for Saturday's activities. We then made the decision to head to Banos, a community an hour south of Ambatos which is one of Ecuador's primary tourist destination during Carnaval. Banos is the site of natural hot springs, plenty of touristic activities, in which we partook. I, along with 3 other girls went to a set of natural hot springs that more closely resembled a public swimming pool, of course the exception being the natural hot springs. It was really enjoyable, crowed, but fun to witness so many people concentrated to one destination to celebrate Carnaval. We left to meet up with our remaining group members who had been in downtown Baños shopping. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out in various bars, watching the parade, and scheduling the various activities in which we would be partaking the next three days. We returned to Ambatos and retreated to bed early. We rose the next morning to prepare for what would be a very busy and exciting day! The Sunday of Carnaval in Ambatos is very special, as Ambatos is host to the largest Carnaval parade in the country...and what a parade it was! Native dancers, marching bands, stilt walkers, and impressive floats all constructed from raw food filled the streets, as did over 80,000 spectators. Following the parade my friends, Kelsey, Megan, Katie, and I all loaded a bus to Baños where in a few hours we were scheduled to bungee jump! For 15.00 per person we reserved an opporunity to bungee jump off a bridge located about 10 minutes outside of Baños. The jump site was gorgeous...like a scene out of Jurassic Park...so green, forested, and mountainous. We took a cab to the site to find close to twenty other individuals waiting for either their own turn or there to spectate. My friends were reluctant and not desiring to go first. I glady obliged! Despite my excitement and enthusiasm, I did experience a bit of anxiety when asked to climb over the ledge of the bridge onto a seperate ledge connected to the side of the bridge. I was much too short for this and had to be hoisted over the ledge by the "bungee jump expert", he then had to strap me in while standing over a rocky river, with plenty of rapids to catch my potentical fall...hahaha. I was supported atthe waist by my gear not at my feet which is the more common method of bungee jumping. He told he was going to count to three and release his grip...uno, dos, tres...I jump! My hands are trembling as I type this...recalling this experience. It was so exhilerating!...After initial fall, I opened my eyes and was able to more fully appreciate how fun, adventurous, and totally mind-blowing it really was!!! I watched as the remainderof my group member followed and took photos of their jumps...agh, it was so neat...
We returned to Baños mid-afternoon to grab dinner and headedback to Ambatos for a quiet, less exciting evening. The following morning we rose a 6:00 AM to catch a 6:30 bus back to Baños for our rainforest tour which was to take place near the town of Puyo, almost three hours southeast of Baños. Despite the long trip, our experience on Monday was absolutely my favorite part of my Carnaval experience...the Amazon Rainforest!!!...our tour began with a two hour hike, then a stop at a waterfall for a swim, another hike that led us to our lunch site, then an hour canoe ride....so amazing! Ecuador continues to overwhelm me and surprise me with its natural beauty. I have never seen such beauty...the land is just incredible!
On the tour, we were introduced to plants used for medicinal purposes, I ate lemon ants whose extract is used by natives in juices and for seasoning purposes, I saw the most beautiful butterflies I had ever seen before, our faces were panited using a flowering plants also used by indigenous tribes as "war paint"...Gosh, the list can extend much farther!
Our day ended in the jungle, we returned to Baños wet, exhausted, sweaty, but so enlightened and so excited to share our experience with our families in Cuenca! We returned to Cuenca Tuesday afternoon. Classes re-commenced yesterday and finals take place next week.