Friday, November 24, 2017

Ecuadorian Whitewater Rafting and a Food Tour

Today I woke up with some unearned hangover-type symptoms which were in line with altitude sickness. At higher altitudes the air contains less oxygen which can make your body sad in the sad spots. Luckily it was nothing that I couldn't endure with a stoic inner strength. I'm sort of a hero if you think about it.

We hopped into yet another strange man's car and took a 3 hour drive to the city of Baños. Yes, Spanish 101 graduate, you read correctly. It's funny because it means bathrooms.

Our driver Rene was nice enough but he was sick and he coughed the whole damn way to Baños. Bleh. I immediately regretted shaking his hand upon entering the car.

I don't know if our driver got out much because when we finally arrived he was excitedly telling people that he'd just come from Quito.

Baños is a little town that mainly serves as a place for tourists to leave from and go on naturey excursions. On this particular occasion we'd come to go whitewater rafting. I haven't done that before!

The company that we chose bought a camera on Amazon, had it shipped to our apartment in St. Louis, and then asked us to mule it to Ecuador for them. Of course we agreed because that didn't sound shady at all.

We got to the river and changed into our wetsuits and life jackets and all the rest of the things. The safety tutorial we got beforehand was concerningly short and hard to understand. Don't do this or that and you'll avoid drowning. I got the gist.

Our guide asked for two volunteers to be "captain" and when no one else raised their hand I went for it. Everyone was filled with confidence in my leadership when I then told them I'd never done this before. It was too late though because now that I'd tasted power I wouldn't hesitate to make an example of any mutineers. The added responsibility pretty much revolved around setting the pace for the rowing. I was also on pull people out of water duty which happened way more often than I would have guessed. Multiple people went flying out of the boat when we hit those class 3 and 4 rapids. Our guide taught us to pull people up by the straps of their life vests. If you went for someone's arms or hands you could pull them out of their sockets.

The Pastaza River was where I would potentially be tearing arms off people as if they were slow roasted guinea pigs. We would navigate the river until about where it leads into the Amazon region.

I think my head must've been too big for their helmets because they gave me this orange one. I was annoyed at the time but now it makes it easy to tell which person is me in the pictures. That's me on the right.

There was another boat and their leader was kind of annoying. I was like "I'm not falling off this boat no matter what" but he was pushing his own crew overboard for amusement. No thanks.

There was a guy on a kayak who was our cameraman. I think he did a pretty good job.

He also took some excellent slow-motion video. I didn't have a problem keeping a rowing beat going in my head until I got punched in the face by cold waves of water over and over. That had a way of breaking my concentration. We got bounced around so much that I wondered if the rowing was even doing anything. Mainly I think the idea is to just keep your boat from turning sideways because if that happens you're likely to capsize.

Lydia only went overboard 3 or 4 times.

The bus ride to and from the river with the other tourists was pretty amusing. One guy said "they do rum and coke the opposite way. I think rum must be cheaper than coke here." Another couple had met in Europe, the guy got her some kind of traveling job, and now they just travel the world together while they work. I used to think I was cool but now I just don't know. This ride was the first time I've heard the word "vacationship".

Back in Baños we had a little time to look around before heading back. We popped into the Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water (Nuestra Senora del Agua Santa).

There were a lot of water-based miracles depicted all over the place in there.

Baños is famous for its melcocha, which is like taffy that they pull by hand.

When you're feeling devout but also hungry.

I was tempted to buy us matching "I Heart Bathrooms" t-shirts.

Our driver Freddy was the best of the entire trip. His English was solid and he liked to stop all the time at interesting places.

Freddy was cursing at traffic that had appeared in the middle of nowhere. I asked about it and he said there was some small town farmer's market nearby and all the traffic was heading to that. Next stop: farmer's market in Pelileo, Ecuador!

Lydia proclaimed that this was the best market that she'd ever been to, which is saying something because we've been to a pantload of markets. I think its awesomeness was due to it not remotely being aimed at tourists.

It seemed to be about evenly divided between fruits and vegetables. There were one or two tables selling tools and one little place to eat. That was about it. No "I Heart Quito" t-shirts here.

We had a sketchy looking dude following us around for a little while but we kept a good eye on him and eventually he skittered back to his hole. I assumed he was a pickpocket or something.

Guinea pigs we roasting on a rotisserie at the little restaurant. 

Not only was the place not really meant for us, but everyone was selling in bulk. Our first attempt at making a purchase was for a couple of granadillos. The lady selling them was so uninterested in such a small transaction that she just gave them to us as a gift.

Next we wanted a big yellow babaco and the lady selling them seemed confused. She ultimately pulled a couple from her mountain of fruit crates. I have the feeling that I got the gringo price but even that was only a dollar a piece so I couldn't complain.

I don't think I've ever seen what broccoli really looks in the wild before.

We stopped at a convenience store. I bought some fun cookies.

The airbnb had a sweet view, as I've mentioned, and a lot of the reason for that was that it was on top of a hill. So when Freddy dropped us off at the bottom of said hill due to traffic I said some bad words. It was a serious hike especially at an already high elevation. It did give us a chance to tour the basilica though.

You could hear the music from a passing dance party bus from inside. These really seem to be popular in Quito.

After a rest we headed back out for a food tour.

I am the owner of a keg I got at a garage sale someplace. Maybe it needs to be a urinal.

While walking down the city streets our group found this cool vendor who was making a hot drink made from aloe leaves.

The aloe made it super thick and goopy. 

It was sort of like drinking a glass of sweet, warm snot.

I found the scariest garbage can ever imagined.

One of the restaurants was seriously decorated for Quito's birthday.

Viva Quito!

One place sold all sorts of the parts of animals that are really meant to be thrown away. I don't remember what was what but we ate cow intestines and placenta.

Our guide told us that Angelina Jolie ate her own placenta after giving birth. I know she was trying to make this less gross but it definitely was not working.

One store was selling actual shrimp cocktails.

There was a street comedian who started heckling us as soon as we walked passed him. One dude in our group was fluent in Spanish so he got pretty much kidnapped into the show. I watched a bit but I had no idea what was going on.

So many people were on the streets for the Quito Day celebrations that they stopped trolley service. 

The streets were hazy with clouds from the smoke of street stalls cooking potatoes and sausages.

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