After our jungle adventure in Tena things got a litle bit crazy. We made our way to Baños, another 6-7h bus ride and finally found ourselvws in a cute little valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. That same day, some of us decided to jump pff a bridge and swing around a bit - not something I was keen on doing especially after a nauseating bus drive.
After a fun night out with some old school american chart songs, great food but too much alcohol it was time for bed as I stupidly decided to go for a spontaneous hike in the morning. Looking back I probably should have just slept in. Two friends and I decided to hike up a fairly steep hill (with altitude and all quite a struggle) with a view overlooking Baños. Huffing and puffing we finally arrived at the top and I have to say the view was pretty amazing. However on the way back down, whilst nearly slipping on each and every stone this white, fluffy dog appeared out of nowhere and started barking at us furiously. Usually the stray dogs I've seen so far bark and keep their distance. This one in particular though, wasn't having any of it. He kept coming closer, growling and barking and as I was walking in front instead of running I tried to shoo him away. It seemed as if I had succeeded, the other girls passed but as soom as I turned around that little bugger bit right into my calf destroying one of my only pair of jeans ü, but I guess that wasn't that relevant at the time (; Luckily one of the girls I was hiking with was a doctor and cleaned up my little wound. In fact it was her who insisted on gettimg a rabies shot. So we made our way back to the hostel, tried to wake up our guide (who was very hungover from the night before) and made our way to the hospital. Hospitals in Ecuador, and what I've seen so far in whole of South America are definitely not what you expect. Hardly any organization, corruption and crime, people crying and mourning over their lost ones and somewhere in the distance you can hear screams filled with pain. That public hospital simply looked at my wound and told me that for that small bite, no jab was needed. Luckily, a private clinic saw reason and finally gave me the jab - much to my mother's delight I guess.
After that small and unfortunate incident it was time for some ziplining. I had no idea what I got myself into. Instead of just flying over a canyon from one end to the other, we actually had to navigate over a hanging bridge without something to really hold on to and then worst of all climb up an overhanging cliff. There wasn't even a way back. In the end, we all managed the different tasks although a couple of tears were shed by some but in a way it was definitely worth it. I got a video on DVD of me 'mastering' those horrific tasks, but to be honest I don't even want to see it. I'll have to wait until I'm in Switzerland anyway (:
After that scary little episode we made our way up a mountain, I can't even recall the name of it, but it was a bit further up from the one I just hiked up the same morning. Casa del Arbol (= the Treehouse) was located on top of it, also known as the End of the World Swing. A must when you're in Baños just to get a pretty sick picture. But it was quite fun swinging from a tree house and seeing the beautiful landscape stretched out in front of you, I definitely can't complain.
Our next stop after Baños was Cuenca, a pretty little colonial town set at an easy peasy 2500 meters above sea level. We didn't do a lot except jump on the hop on hop off bus that basically just drove us around the whole city, which is why we ended up with sunburns (at this altitude quite dangerous!) and in a bar, craving un refresco.
And if you believe it or not, the next crazy thing was just about to happen. After getting soaked in the rain, we finally got to our accommodation and tried to dry off and get warm again. The organized girl that I am, started to pack my stuff together but suddenly I felt as if the earth was pulled out from under me. At first I blamed it on the altitude causing me to feel a little faint. But after the second and third time of actually feeling the house shake I looked at my roommate, wondering if I was the only one going crazy. I'm happy to say I'm still sane and actually lived through one of the strongest earthquakes Ecuador had in years. We were lucky that our area wasn't as badly affected as other places, which is why we joked about it afterwards (apparently one of the girls was sat on the toilet while all of this happened). However, only days after the incident we saw in the news what a big impact the earthquake really had. Quite scary!
Cuenca was one of our last stops in Ecuador and I was so sad to leave it so soon. Once again I wish I had more time here, but I'll definitely come back again (as soon as possible) to explore it and the people some more.
We crossed the border to Peru (always a pain in the butt when lovely immigration officers feel like they need to rummage through your bags and then end up not being able to close them again...) and ended up in Mancora, a tourist beach place in the north of Peru where we stayed for a couple of days to simply relax and enjoy the sun. And that's exactly what we ended up doing. From laying in hammocks (again!) to morning yoga sessions at the beach and swimming, we did it all and enjoyed some great food. I even dared to take my first surf lessons that turned out to be a lot more successfull than anticipated.
This tour was coming to an end with a rather uninteresting stop at Trujillo and Huanchaco (they had some great ruins though) and exhausting night buses to Lima I was sad to say goodbye to everyone of them but nevertheless looking forward to my next adventures (part of which also entailed traveling in a group and visiting machu picchu!!!)