My Peace Corps friends and I met for a weekend in Banos- otherwise known as the Adventure and Party Capital of Ecuador.  It is known that if you want to bungee jump, zip line across a gorge, mountain bike, participate in any other kind of extreme support, or stay up all night dancing, go to Banos!  So, I did!  I partied a little and played a lot with Chris (from Buffalo), Elias (Seattle), Megan (Chicago), and Melissa (Miami).
After dark, we lounged in the thermal hot springs at the base of this waterfall.

Banos is on the edge of the Orient, or the Amazon Rainforest. For those of you who know me very well, you won’t be surprised to know that before coming to Ecuador, I had decided that I would NOT visit the rainforest.  Why?  Because something lives there and slithers through the brush and dangles from the tree branches above my head. You guessed it… snakes!  No thank you!

However, after much consideration, I decided that I should not let my life-long, heart-stopping, totally irrational phobia prevent me from experiencing this amazing ecological place.  So, before I could stop myself, I signed up for a Jungle Tour the first chance I got.  Agreed, this 12-hour introductory trip into the edge of the rainforest was pretty tame and is more like “Amazon Lite”, but it was a big step for me.

First, we visited a village of the Shuar people where our faces were painted and we
participated in a traditional dance. 
Then, they brought out some monkeys (and a huge snake) for us to hold.  No pictures of the snake.  I had been warned and I made sure I was very far away!
Next, we took a canoe ride down the Rio Pastaza in a dug out canoe.
Some typical Shuar houses along the river
Houses are elevated off the ground, but the ground floor has hammocks for relaxing.  With Elias (Seattle), Laura (Salinas, California), and Melissa (Miami)
Gusanos, or worms, are a great protein source when fried.
I didn’t get to try them, but I would have!  They gave us some homemade hooch instead. 
Next, we donned our rubber boots and rain ponchos and went for a hike. 
No surprise, it was raining in the rainforest!
We hiked to this beautiful waterfall and swam in the tepid waters of the rainforest.
Finally, we ended our day high above the Pastaza River, which runs east into the Amazon. 

A perfect place to relax in a hammock!

As the sun was setting, our final activity of the day was to swing high above the rainforest.
I really enjoyed the entire tour, but the swing was the most fun of all!
The next day, I went to the famous Pailon del Diablo waterfall. So many bridges and 
walkways make it easy to climb all over this place! 
It was spectacular! I will definitely return in the future to explore more paths in this area.
Throughout Ecuador, it is common to see signs promoting the benefits of nature or reminders to take care of the environment. Throughout this park, there was an inspirational message
on each of the garbage cans.  This was my favorite. 

“The biggest gift that you can give to others, is the example of your own life.”

And so, my adventures continue….