This post is part of a series:
In our last post, we were obviously a little travel weary, thus the declarations of permanent residence in Banos, Ecuador. The travel weariness has worn off, but we're still ready to declare Banos a prime destination for other reasons: it's truly a bit of paradise. We came here with the intention of staying two nights and then working our way north, but we ended up staying four nights, and we're still sad to go.
As I mentioned before, Banos seems to be the Ecuadorian equivalent of Boulder, Colorado - an outdoorsy person's Mecca buried in the mountains, with myriad activities you can take on to pass the time. Every block offers touring companies that will take you rafting, kayaking, canyoning, jungle tripping, go-carting, mountain biking and more. There are trails extending up to the volcano and surrounding volcanic formations that range from steep to "are you kidding me?" The best part is that once you're done with your outdoor adventure, this place knows how to help you relax. There are natural baths with water heated by the volcano, massage and spa companies on every block (most professional, some not), and so many different restaurants representing cuisine from around the world, it can take an hour to decide what to eat.
After the puking on the boat and the intense bus ride into Banos, I hope it's no surprise that we spoiled ourselves a bit on Tuesday, the day after we got here:
Our hotel, Posada del Arte, is not only a cute little guesthouse with art EVERYWHERE, but its (included) breakfasts were declared some of our best ever had. We walked around the town and explored, and then both got massages - Chris's first in far too long. Then we made our way to El Refugio, a spa company that seemed to have mastered helping you achieve "peace, serenity, tranquility." This reputation held up as Kelly and I took their required but incredible reflective walk across their amazing property deep in the Andes - walking barefoot across surfaces both lush and incredibly uncomfortable, a house on the top of a hill where you can just scream to let out your anger, and amazing vistas where you can reflect, connect, feel, breathe. Absolutely stunning.
The serenity kinda stopped there - insert the sound of a record scratching here and cut to half an hour later, when Kelly and I are covered head to toe in ¨spa mud" and dancing awkwardly to Zumbra aerobic video dance lessons as the Spanish-only-speaking staff (not to mention the carpenter working on their facility outside) looked on in great amusement. We actually paid for this service - remind me to scour YouTube when I get home for the video they surely made. Cut next to Chris and Kelly awkwardly stuffed in steam boxes, being dragged out of them so they can throw cold water on us, stuffed back into the boxes, rinse and repeat about 3 times. We were screaming and laughing harder than either of us have in a long time.
Okay, it wasn't really all that tortuous, and in the end the experience was really relaxing and fun. But never again will we get anywhere near spa mud. No dancing photos will be provided.
Our day concluded with a amazing dinner at Marianne's, a French-Mediterranean restaraunt here in town. Fondue, wine, bread, salad, music, lively people - nice. We called it a perfect day.
More about Banos in part 2, coming up.