Baños, Beer and Boobies
Although loving the wintery weather in Cotopaxi, we were ready for the temperate climate of Baños. Baños is a small tourist town famous for it’s thermal pools. Although we didn’t visit the pools, we explored much of what Baños has to offer. Walking around town, you see men in little shops pulling taffy from a wooden hook hanging in the doorway, quaint restaurants filled with locals and tourists alike and the hustle and bustle of the market even mid-week. We were told where to get “the best” empanadas so made our way to the hole in the wall to enjoy the deliciousness of the heavily fried, homemade empanadas.
The next day happened to be my birthday. I had only one request: to swing at “the edge of the world.” I had seen pictures of this sketchy contraption before. Being afraid of heights, I wanted to give myself the ultimate birthday gift… to launch myself over a cliff on a shoddily built wooden swing. We took a 45 minute taxi ride to the top of the small mountain and hiked up a steep hill only to be disappointed. The swing was taken down for repairs.
Trying to make the best of the situation, we decided to walk back down on a trail that our taxi driver claimed to be a “beautiful hike!” The trail, which questionably wove itself through people’s farmland, across the street and back into the woods, was a narrow, steep and muddy path. Clearly, I made a poor shoe choice for the hike.
Being the smart, witty girl that I am, I made Nate feel bad enough about the swing and hike that I actually convinced him to drive over 300 miles out of the way to the coast of Ecuador so I could see blue footed boobies 🙂 It didn’t take much convincing as we both love the ocean and there was a possibility that there might be some surfing in the near future. We drove the beautiful road across the country, along the Quilatoa Loop. The drive offered gorgeous views of patchwork farmlands scattered alongside the highlands. It was just us, the road and the occasional “traffic jam.”
After a long drive, we pulled into Rancho Bonanza for a much deserved home-brewed beer. We ordered up some ceviche, a couple beers and asked if it would be okay to camp for the night. Little did we know, we would be there for four days and make one of the best friends a traveler could make! Our first night, Joe came over and introduced himself to us, sat down and told us all about his distillery/brewery and metal shop. We spent the next few days enjoying all that Rancho Bonanza had to offer, capping off each night with a cocktail with our new friend.
We even got the opportunity to take a beer making course with Joe! A good beer is hard to find in Latin America, let alone learning how to make one. We were more than happy to work an eight hour day alongside Joe, all while getting educated on the beer making process!
Growing up on the ocean, we were both excited and antsy to get back to the coast. Driving along the main road, we caught our first glimpse of the ocean since Cartagena, Colombia. We drove Truck right up to the beach and ran down to the water. Ahhhhh, it feels good to be back!!
We spent the first couple days lounging on the beach and reenergizing from our lack of sun, sand and surf. But, we had a motive for driving all this way, the boobies await!!
After the worst boat ride of my life, we made it to Isla de la Plata. About halfway to the island, a gas line broke and there we sat in the middle of the ocean in 10 foot swell. Already feeling seasick, this was not ideal. As the boat rocked up, down and over the enormous waves, my face turned greener and greener and my body uncontrollably heaved. However, I held it together, unlike some of my other boat mates. Nate, on the other hand, was totally fine laughing hysterically as the boat rocked side to side.
We hiked around the island for about three hours, carefully dodging the birds that decided to nest themselves right smack in the middle of the trail. Oh, that brings me to their nest. The way the boobies make their nest is by pooping all around the spot they are standing. Literally, it stands in one spot and pivots itself in a full circle, all while projectile shitting. They say this keeps bugs and even other boobies away. I can see why, I know I wouldn’t stomp through someone else’s crap!
I was so excited to see these mysteriously colored birds, I was like a kid in a candy shop. “But, Nate! Look at THIS one!” I would excitedly shout, pointing to one of the hundreds of birds surrounding us. We found out that the color of their feet is obtained through their diet. Because they have such a rich diet in fresh fish, their bodies hold onto the pigments from the fish and distribute the color to their feet.
Because of the time period that we were there, we were able to see many young boobies. Their eyes haven’t fully developed, leaving them with dark black eyes. Eeery if you ask me!
At the very end of our tour, we got to see the infamous mating dance. It starts out like this: The male spots his soon to be baby mama but keeps a fair distance. Once confident, he slowly struts his stuff trying to impress his lady by lifting one blue foot up at a time and slowly waddling closer to her. He gets right up in her business and bends over, wings in the air and lets out a loud call, then continues to lift one foot up at a time, rocking back and forth. Unfortunately for our dude, he got turned down. The lovely candidate watched him as he elaborately danced around her, but after a minute or two, walked away with no remorse. Shot. Down. Sorry, little dude, better luck next time!
Our last stop after the coast was the beautiful city of Cuenca. Being Ecuador’s third largest city, we were unsure if we would like it because of the size. We fell in love! Filled with gorgeous buildings, any type of restaurant you could possibly want and a perfect climate, Cuenca has it all. The city was completely decorated for Christmas and, with the chilly nights, we were really starting to feel the holiday spirit.
Once again, we had to tear ourselves away and move onto our twelfth country. Leaving the cheap food, gas and lodging along with the full range of climates, beautiful mountains and gorgeous sandy beaches was more difficult than we had imagined it to be. We really enjoyed Ecuador and will definitely be back!