Duke Spring Break in Baños

After a weekend on the beach in Montañita, Ashley, Jack, Sam, and I returned to the sierras Sunday night to meet our first two spring break groups.  While Ashley and Jack took the group from Vanderbilt University out to our partner organization, FEVI, in the valley north of us, Sam and I met up with our group of six from Duke University and brought them back to the valley with us.  Seeing as Monday and Tuesday were holidays in Ecuador celebrating Carnaval (what we know as Mardi Gras in the States), we took off for our overnight trip bright and early Monday morning, to Baños.  Here to give a snapshot of our time together is one of our spring breakers from Duke: Jake!

After a long and bumpy ride to Baños, we were welcomed with espuma (foam) and buckets of water by the locals.  It was Carnaval, and the festivities were wild; a major part of the celebrating involved spraying foam on everyone and everything.  Once I dried off, the town was amazing.  We checked into a hostel (which only cost $7.50 a night), and then decided to go repelling down 5 of the local waterfalls.  We had a blast – the experience was well worth the blisters and rope burns on our hands.  After we dried off (again), we caught a chivas (essentially a party bus) and went to party on top of a volcano.  The party consisted of fire-jugglers and comedy shows, but the real highlight of the night was the view.  We could see over all of Baños, and the mountain scenery was incredible.  When we returned to the town, we quickly learned that the celebrating during the day was nothing compared to the celebrating at night.  We all were so tired after the adventurous day that we turned in a little early so we would be ready for the next day’s events.  

We started the next day with a rooftop breakfast before renting bikes and embarking on a 27 kilometer ride to a huge waterfall (I know, there are a lot of waterfalls on this trip).  The ride was exciting for two reasons: the incredible views that we saw on our path and the water balloons that we had to dodge (the Carnival activities also included water balloon pelting).  About half way through the ride, we stopped to go on a one kilometer zip line (it was the longest zip line I have ever seen).  I can honestly say it was one of the coolest experiences of my life.  We finished the bike ride and snapped a few Kodak pictures of the waterfall before returning to our hostel and leaving Baños.  A few pointers for those of you planning on being in Baños for Carnaval: get the Mega Grill burger (it’s delicious) at the burger stand off the plaza, go zip lining (it’s exhilarating), and bring a bathing suit (it’s wet)!  

A performer with fire on top of the volcano
Jake concentrating in preparation for a 1km zipline.