Well ok, I didn’t manage to foil the robbers for Christmas, but I am spending it alone in adventure sport town Banos, Ecuador. Originally planned for post-coast and maybe an Amazon visit, I ended up heading here early on my retreat from the coast and with some miscommunication in Quito with my Couch Surfing friend Carlos. No matter, that just means for Christmas I’m treating myself to some adventure sports.
First up, river rafting. Although I can’t swim I love water sports and this time around that meant hitting the rapids. It was fun to careen through dipping waves and holes in the water. Granted it wasn’t exactly the most hardcore thing as there were two 5 year old kids behind me. Also I got shifted from English speaking boat to French speaking boat as the odd man, but it was still a good time. The scenery along the river was stunning. As another patron mentioned, that would’ve been one awesome time to have a go-cam.
While I certainly haven’t been eating poorly in the last month, I still decided to treat myself to a few Christmas dinners of varied food being in a gringo filled tourist town. A steak dinner that was probably just objectively ok but tasted like the best thing ever because I haven’t had a good slab of beef steak in who knows how long. A dinner of objectively good pulled pork sandwich and fries and even microbrewed craft beers. On Christmas day I tried Swiss raclette, because melty cheese is certainly something i’ve missed. Although I managed to find the Ecuadorian specialties of cuy (guinea pig) and encocado (coconut stew) to try as well.
On Christmas day i decided to treat myself well. My family pitched in and purchased some of my splurges that I can’t do on a normal day. While it’s not Thailand, I started with a massage in the morning. Well, it certainly ain’t Thailand, it cost four times as much and was only ok.
Later on I went for the more exciting activity, paragliding. The guide’s American girlfriend looked at me and went, “This is what you are doing for Christmas?!” with an incredulous look. Granted, she was with her boyfriend’s family, but I reminded her technically it was what she was doing for Christmas too. Luckily she was really nice and took some photos of me in the air.
It was an amazing feeling to be up in the air like that. You just take a few steps forward, back, take a running start, and are carried straight off the slope of a hill. As a twelve year old, my parents bought me my first video game system, a Nintendo 64. One of the first games I managed to play was Pilotwings 64, a rather boring game that was just showing off the power of 3-D. I still recall you were supposed to catch thermal drafts, and I didn’t realize that was a thing you did. They aren’t really visible in real life like they are in the game, but my do they lift you fast!
The winds were strong that day, too strong to be safe. GeoTours had given me bad info and told me not to bring anything so I was sans books. Not a bad way to be though as I gazed upon the first active volcano I’d ever seen constantly rumbling, roaring and belching smoke. Finally near the end of the day we managed to get up. Only we went, as the other people who brought parachutes thought it too dangerous and instead monitored the wind for us. Unfortunately, I can get nauseous doing most activities and being this high up was no exception and I got altitude sickness from the sudden rise. I held on though and the rather brisk air whisked past me as we floated around. Suddenly though, the rather strong wind gave out and we made an emergency landing. For me, that meant instead of walking down, I landed ass sliding onto the hill.
This is my first Christmas away from Los Angeles and I tried to make the best of it. Not your standard Christmas but certainly a fun one. Good thing I got Christmas presents so that I could greatly enjoy such an adventurous town.