Banos day 7/Misahualli day 1 (puenting)

Today we had plans to finally head out of Banos. We wanted to go on a jungle trip and were told that the trips based out of Banos weren’t as good. So we planned to head 4 hours North to a little town called Misahualli which is supposedly filled with monkeys. But first I wanted to do a couple more things around Banos. We had to wait for Jeremy because he was coming and he had his last paragliding lesson today. So first we headed over to the waterfall by the hot springs, because I hadn’t really gotten a good picture and wanted to climb up a path by them.

We climbed a little bit up the path then decided it wasn’t worth climbing up, was too slippery.

Jeremy got back early from his lesson because he got rained out, so we headed over to the bridge in town to go “puenting” I had no idea what this was. We showed up and there were a few guys standing on the side of the bridge with some climbing ropes.

This was it?? Seriously?? Soo sketch. I pretty much was about to back out, trying to decide if it was worth the risk or not. We didn’t see anyone else do it, and I had no idea how it worked. Jeremy talked me into it, so we harnessed up. I was shitting myself at this point and was seriously considering not doing it. We climbed up onto two platforms on the side of the bridge.

This was insane. I figured out at this point how it worked though, that the rope was attached to the other side of the bridge, so when you jumped off you would swing under the bridge to the other side. At first I thought that we were literally just jumping off the bridge and somehow these climbing ropes were going to stop us? Like bungee jumping with climbing ropes. Anyhow, I had slightly more confidence in their set up but I was still shitting myself. I am pretty sure that climbing ropes are supposed to be replaced after 1-2 falls or something, and I am sure these had thousands on them.

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Now Jeremy was the one that didn’t want to go, he was ready to back out. I was the one that was ready to go. So after a couple minutes we decided we would jump at the same time, and he counted 1..2..3.. jump! And jump we did..

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Soo scary. Only lasted a few seconds obviously then there was a guy at the bottom with a rope. He would keep tossing it to us until we grabbed it and he towed us in.

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Anyway, this was up there in the most crazy things I have done. More scary than bungee jumping and sky diving, at least you know those things are safe.

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After that, we headed to the bus station. We bought a $4 bus to Tena, but were instructed to have them first drop us off at a bridge just before Tena. We got dropped off, crossed the bridge, then caught another bus to Misahualli. This was about 45 mins further.

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This was a small town, it was already dark when we got here so we walked down to the river. We met a couple girls from Colorado on the bus. We grabbed dinner with them then we challenged some locals to a game called Ecuaball? Basically volleyball with a soccer ball. There was money on the game so we paid $15 to play against them and lost miserably, but it was a good time.

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Apparently all the monkeys are asleep, so tomorrow we are excited to see them, we were told you have to watch your stuff because all the monkeys try to steal your things. We also planned very poorly and are all out of money so have to catch a bus to Tena tomorrow to find an ATM, probably an hour or an hour and a half each way. We will check out the city while we are there and try to book our Amazon jungle excursion, 2 nights 3 days.

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Banos day 6/Misahualli day 1 (puenting)

Today we had plans to finally head out of Banos. We wanted to go on a jungle trip and were told that the trips based out of Banos weren’t as good. So we planned to head 4 hours North to a little town called Misahualli which is supposedly filled with monkeys. But first I wanted to do a couple more things around Banos. We had to wait for Jeremy because he was coming and he had his last paragliding lesson today. So first we headed over to the waterfall by the hot springs, because I hadn’t really gotten a good picture and wanted to climb up a path by them.

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We climbed a little bit up the path then decided it wasn’t worth climbing up, was too slippery.

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Jeremy got back early from his lesson because he got rained out, so we headed over to the bridge in town to go “puenting” I had no idea what this was. We showed up and there were a few guys standing on the side of the bridge with some climbing ropes.

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This was it?? Seriously?? Soo sketch. I pretty much was about to back out, trying to decide if it was worth the risk or not. We didn’t see anyone else do it, and I had no idea how it worked. Jeremy talked me into it, so we harnessed up. I was shitting myself at this point and was seriously considering not doing it. We climbed up onto two platforms on the side of the bridge.

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This was insane. I figured out at this point how it worked though, that the rope was attached to the other side of the bridge, so when you jumped off you would swing under the bridge to the other side. At first I thought that we were literally just jumping off the bridge and somehow these climbing ropes were going to stop us? Like bungee jumping with climbing ropes. Anyhow, I had slightly more confidence in their set up but I was still shitting myself. I am pretty sure that climbing ropes are supposed to be replaced after 1-2 falls or something, and I am sure these had thousands on them.

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Now Jeremy was the one that didn’t want to go, he was ready to back out. I was the one that was ready to go. So after a couple minutes we decided we would jump at the same time, and he counted 1..2..3.. jump! And jump we did..

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Soo scary. Only lasted a few seconds obviously then there was a guy at the bottom with a rope. He would keep tossing it to us until we grabbed it and he towed us in.

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Anyway, this was up there in the most crazy things I have done. More scary than bungee jumping and sky diving, at least you know those things are safe.

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After that, we headed to the bus station. We bought a $4 bus to Tena, but were instructed to have them first drop us off at a bridge just before Tena. We got dropped off, crossed the bridge, then caught another bus to Misahualli. This was about 45 mins further.

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This was a small town, it was already dark when we got here so we walked down to the river. We met a couple girls from Colorado on the bus. We grabbed dinner with them then we challenged some locals to a game called Ecuaball? Basically volleyball with a soccer ball. There was money on the game so we paid $15 to play against them and lost miserably, but it was a good time.

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Apparently all the monkeys are asleep, so tomorrow we are excited to see them, we were told you have to watch your stuff because all the monkeys try to steal your things. We also planned very poorly and are all out of money so have to catch a bus to Tena tomorrow to find an ATM, probably an hour or an hour and a half each way. We will check out the city while we are there and try to book our Amazon jungle excursion, 2 nights 3 days.

Banos Day 6 (Canopy)

This morning I was a little hungover, but I had already told Jon last night that that I would go canopying with him again. I kind of regretted the decision at the time, because I had already gone and wanted to do something new.

But when we got there, it was very different location (San Martin) and in the end I was very glad I went. Overall it was an awesome experience.

After eating the same exact hostel breakfast I have been eating for 6 days straight, were picked up in a van at 10 and shuttled over to the location.

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This zip line first brought me down between two canyons over the river. They wouldn’t let me take my camera with me on this part because it was too fast, up to 120 kph. It was scary when they stopped because it ends in a cave and you are going so fast, head first into the wall of the cave.

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At the end of this part, there was a staircase strung by 2 cables between sections of the cliff, it was about 100 feet long. This was pretty fun to walk across definitely got my blood moving. We were cabled in with harnesses so it really was pretty safe.

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Once we climbed this part, we had to hike up a good section of the mountain. It was much longer than I had anticipated, hard to say but maybe 200 feet? Here there was also cabling to hold you in. In spanish he quickly told us to keep make sure there were always 2 carabiniers attached at once so we were always connected.

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After this, there was one more sideways stretch until we reached the next platform.

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I weigh 205 lbs.. and we were joking about the age limits of 4 minimum and 80 maximum.. would you send  your 4 year on this thing?? and an 80 year old woman??

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The ride back was pretty cool, at the end you could sense your speed because you went real close by the people waiting there, in the canyon it doesn’t feel like you are going that fast.

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When we got back, we grabbed our lunch from the same place down the road, felt like a home made meal by grandma. And only $2.50?? Still can’t get over how cheap it is, she must make $1 profit off the food she serves. Fresh mango juice with rice, chicken, salad, and soup for nothing.

I took a nap the rest of the day, sent out some postcards, basically relaxed. Met a few new guys and went to the hot springs. 3rd time now, love that place. Whenever I get out I just feel so warm, rejuvenated and relaxed.

It dawned on me today how much I love this place. There is just so much to do, and the weather has been holding up. The week went by so fast. I have good friends here and just feel so comfortable, feels like home.

However, Jon is headed out tomorrow and Jose and I planned to as well. Jeremy now wants to come to Colombia with us, and his training for his gliding isn’t done until tomorrow at 4. So Jose and I plan on renting a couple of the buggies and trying to see the volcano, since I still haven’t since the weather has been crap and I have been doing so much else. I also want to try “puenting” which is a giant swing from a bridge. Supposed to be awesome.

When Jeremy gets back we are going to head the 4 hours North to Tena. Tena is a huge kayaking destination and supposedly there are kayaks laying around at every hostel, there is also caving, white water rafting, and jungle trips.

The owner at my hostel told me that the jungle trips here really are not worth the time, and that we should head out of Tena.

Tena is the second best destination, but an even better one is about 8 hours away and is out of the way north to the border. The owner of the hostel said we should see insects, birds and lots of monkeys from Tena. There are river dolphins and crocodiles etc in the further away location. It is also more expensive from that location because it is in a national reserve.

I really will miss this place. What used to be a strange, foreign city now feels like a safe home where I have friends and know how to get around. I have had so many amazing experiences here, not sure yet, but I think it might be the best place I have ever traveled to.

Banos Day 5 (Road to Puyo/Diablo Falls)

Today we got up around 930 and planned to bike ride to the neighboring town Puyo about 63kms away, was supposed to be a beautiful drive.

We went to the travel agency we have been using and rented bikes for $5 for the day and headed out of town. Me, Jose, and john came along. Jose wasn’t too thrilled that John and I got up so late because he’s one of those “morning people”

We headed out of town and first drove past a dam.

A little further down the road we saw the first canopy tower. Canopying is basically zip lining in a lying down position. Looked awesome, it looked like the people we were watching were flying.

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Once I saw it I immediately decided that I had to do it. It was $10 to go one way across the canyon and return in the gondola, or $15 to go both ways. Was no decision to be made for me I chose both ways. They geared me all up and I went to the top of the tower.

They put my feet up in a sling and sent me off

I’m not sure how fast it went, but the whole thing only took about 30-40 seconds. It wasn’t quite as cool as it looked, but beautiful views. The only part that really got my adrenaline pumping was at the end when you are flying 40 mph at a dirt pile, but there was a guy at the end there to stop me. I snapped some photos en route.
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Beautiful. Once the guy at the other end unhooked me, I had to hike a few minutes uphill to latch into the other cable.
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The 15 year old kid at this end strapped me up and sent me back on my way.

After this we hit the road again. There were tons of tunnels, bridges, waterfalls along the way. Beautiful.
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Along the way we met a Swiss kid and a Canadian. They told us of a place called Diablo (Devil’s) falls, so we tagged along.

I went to grab an empinada and mentioned to everyone that I was doing so, but when I came back no one was in sight. I figured that maybe they didn’t hear me and had headed down, so I started hiking down the trail.
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I think the trail was 1k long, so it only took about 20 minutes to get down (all downhill) until I reached the falls.
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Before entering the park there was a guy collecting an entry fee of $1.50. There were 3 levels to the falls.
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To gain access to the top of the falls, you had to crawl through a cave, ridiculous.
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This tunnel went on for about 50 feet then opened back up a little bit
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You had to climb up some stairs
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Then there was a platform
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The last stairway led to right behind the waterfall
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My friends weren’t there, so I back traced through everything again and started heading back to see if I could find them at the top of the trail maybe. I ran into Jose and apparently they had waited 20 mins for me before deciding to just head down. So I crawled back through the tunnel-path with them to the top.
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We hiked all back uphill to the road, and stopped at a stand to grab a fresh half carrot half orange juice for $1.
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We headed back out, and it started raining. Rain was spraying from the tires into our eyes, so we stopped around kilometer 23 out of the 60 we needed to go. I wanted to continue our ride to Puyo but no one else did so I wasn’t about to go on my own.
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We grabbed some lunch and a beer from a stand on the side of the road, and thats when we started to get uncomfortable and cold. We flagged down a bus and they threw our bikes underneath.
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We showered up a bit, napped, and went to a bar called Leprechaun. Main club in town. Jon was bitching that the 30 ounce beers here were “expensive” because they costed $3. Drank fairly heavily and got to sleep around 3.

Banos Day 4 (Mirador La Cruz Bellavista)

Woke up to a knock on my door today that I had a guest waiting for me in the lobby. Jose had arrived!

We caught up, and once again had oatmeal, bread with jam, and coffee for breakfast. It would be my last day with Andrea as she was taking off for Quito.

Jose had yet to see the town, so we walked around a bit. I really just planned on relaxing today since we had been non stop going since my arrival.

We strolled by the church in town and went inside to take some photos. Although we walk by it every day in the center of town I had not gotten around to actually checking it out.

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We went inside the church, which was in session since it was a Sunday. It was really weird because half the people in there were tourists taking photos and in the way, flashes etc, and the other half did not look too pleased and were actually attending the mass.

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After this, we kind of loosely were deciding what to do, and thought about doing the bike ride to the neighboring town Puyo. Picked up a bag of chopped sugarcane for a dollar, which you chew, was really tasty. In the end we decided to do the hike up to Mirador La Cruz Bellavista.

This was essentially a 45 minute semi-strenuous hike up to a cross that had a viewpoint of Banos.

To get here, we walked through the center of town on Ambato and the trail started at the end of the road on Maldonado.

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We started our hike up the trail.

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On our way there were some nice views

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Until we reached the top

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We hungout for a few minutes up here, which was cool because although we were up so high, we could see everything that was going on down in the city. We could hear music playing from the carnival, hear the sirens from the police car. It was like a sim-city. Gave a good overview of the city.

On the way back down the trail, it only took us about 20 minutes because we ran the whole way. We saw a vacant building so climbed through the barb wire to get some pictures. Real chill spot.

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We strolled through the market in town

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A little while later we got dinner with Kristal & Rich. They are heading South tomorrow to Cuenca. We talked about how close you get to people that you haven’t even known that long when down here, a certain type of bonding that you don’t experience except when traveling. Although we only have known eachother for a week we have gone through a lot of experiences together. And the amount of time we spent together in 1 week would probably take months in our everyday lives in the states. Things are just so much slower down here, we get to spend much more time together, never having to rush off and go anywhere. Every meal we have together is at least 1-2 hours.

Right now we are all watching Ted which I have seen 3x since I got here.

It’s funny, all the movies down here are rip-offs crappy quality that I guess you can buy for a dollar. But the people down here really wouldn’t be able to afford paying the $20 we pay for a DVD at home. Jose was talking to one of the shop workers and the minimum salary here is $350/month. So we really are rich compared to these people, no way they could afford to come out to our “gringo” restaurants paying $10 a meal.

Tomorrow we have plans to do the 60 kilometer bike ride to Puyo. This is supposed to be an awesome road, with tunnels going along the mountainside. There is zip lining etc along the way that we plan on doing. Once we get to Puyo we will catch a bus home.

Banos Day 3 (Canyoning)

Today we got up around 930 or so and had our hostel breakfast again of oatmeal, banana, and bread with jelly.

Jeremy and I headed into town to meet in front of the main church in town with Rich and Kristal. We went to a travel agency recommended by our hostel, MTS travel and rented a few ATVs. It was actually not raining today, the sun even came out for a little while! The guy wanted $20 for each for an hour, and I said if we rent 3 can we have for $17 each, he said no, then told us we could have them for $15 each.. Not very good bargaining on his end but we accepted.

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The plan was to head up to the volcano, but we couldn’t find the trail and just ended up buzzing around the city and found some off road trails to take. Good time.

After that, we went back to MTS travel to book our canyoning tour. Canyoning is basically repelling down waterfalls. We booked the tour to Rio Blanco, and again the guy failed at bargaining. He wanted $25 each, we asked for $22, then he said $20.

We went to the hostel to grab Jeremy and grabbed a $2.50 lunch. Was actually pretty good, so I am probably going to continue to get meals at this place.

Rio Blanco had 5 waterfalls, and I guess was better than the other popular location. We headed back to MTS and geared up.

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This place was recommended because I guess they were the only ones that give you some training before you leave. They had a climbing tower that we could practice repelling on.

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We jumped in the back of the pick up and drove out about 20 minutes from town.

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The drive brought us through a tunnel on the way to the neighboring town Puyo, where I think I might bike ride to tomorrow.

Once at our destination our guide kept telling us it was a 1 hour hike. We were not prepared for this as we were in wet suits and Rich had a sprained ankle that was bothering him. Turns out it was only about a 20 minute hike and he was just messing with us.

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There were to be 5 waterfalls. It was really awesome. The first one was pretty small, but still got your adrenaline going none the less.

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The third waterfall was one of the scariest things I have done, more nerve racking than skydiving or bungee jumping. It was probably about 60 feet high and we had to jump down while actually in the waterfall, and it was a tough entrance as well. And slippery.

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A couple of the waterfalls we slid down. Overall an amazing experience and a great rush.

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On the way back, there was a car off the road in a ditch.
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At the same time, there was also randomly a stalled buggy on the side of the road. So all 8 or so of us somehow managed to push this car out of this gutter, then the people in the buggy jumped in the back of the truck with us. Honestly, I have no fucking idea what happened, it was so random and happened so quickly. The car had no damage on it whatsoever. Made zero sense, it was literally sideways in a gutter. And then the buggy thing.. I don’t know. The whole thing was so weird.
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We were already soaking wet so headed to the hot springs. Apparently the “hot” hot spring opens at 6 pm, so we were just in time. The “hot” hot spring was over 110 degrees, it was the hottest water I have been in, soo hot. Kept having to switch from the hot spring back to the cold one.

Rich and Krista came to hang at our hostel tonight for a BBQ and some drinking. Saturday night so we are going out. Maybe zip lining tomorrow or biking, well see.

Anyway, today was amazing. I love this place.

Banos Day 2 (Tungurahua)

Got up about 915 today as we had plans to meet to go on the horse tour to see the active volcano Tungurahua.

Apparently Banos has been on “Orange” alert which means that the volcano could erupt at any time. It was erupting about 10 days ago they said but has been quiet since.

Little did I know apparently it is rainy season here, and just rains.. all the time. Kinda sucks. So we kind of waited around for the weather to clear up but then decided it wasn’t going to, so we booked the tour. It was a 2 hour tour and since we had a big group we paid $17 each. Me, Richard, Kristal, and my 2 new friends, Jonathan and Andrea (From Seattle and Switzerland), as well as a girl named Kristal came on the tour.

Jonathan, Andrea, and I had breakfast at the hostel, consisting of Croissants with home made jelly, oatmeal, and a banana.

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We headed downtown to a gringo restaurant called Casa Hood. We booked the tour and walked 5 mins with the guide over to where the horses were kept.

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We rode about 10 mins through the city the started our accent up the mountain. Of course it was raining the whole time and we got absolutely soaked.

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There were some nice views, considering the rain, and our final destination was a river crossing. Although it was a volcano tour, there was no hope in actually seeing the volcano.

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I had a real good time on the horses, I think we all did. The guide had them running for a bit, I have never been on a horse where they actually run. Good time.

When the tour was over, we were all thoroughly soaked and uncomfortable. Dana, Richard, and Kristal headed back to their hostel and Jonathan headed back to the hostel. I was already soaked, so I figured I may as well go straight to the hot springs. which were located directly under a waterfall. Andrea tagged along. Entry was $2.

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The springs are fed from the volcano and were luke warm-ish. Apparently the locals think that all the minerals in the water have some spiritual healing power. We hung out there for an hour or so.

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After that, I was starving so grabbed some food from the vendors right there. Pretty sure I ate some guinea pig, maybe some cat or dog, no fucking idea, but it definitely was not beef. I think I also got ripped off got paid the gringo price of $5.50 for a 6 ounce coke and roadkill with rice and corn that I am pretty sure had previously been sampled by a bug. The meal actually didn’t taste too bad though.

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When we got back to the hostel and dried off a bit, we headed back to Casa Hood. We had some coffee and they play movies there so we watched the Big Lebowski.

Pizza at the hostel for $1/slice so hitting that up. Plans to go canyoning tomorrow (repelling down waterfalls)