After our morning canyoning adventure, Brandon and I had lunch, then we went hiking in Baños‘s surrounding hills.
The first part of the journey was the most difficult, almost straight up the whole time.
We reached Bellavista, a white cross overlooking the town, and rested.
We continued on the paved road to Runtún, a small village high up on the mountain.
On our way, we could see the snow-covered peak of Tungurahua, an active volcano which was belching thick, dark grey smoke.
While taking a break in a school playground, an elderly man approached us and invited us to his home for tea.
We followed him for a few minutes and were rewarded by a gorgeous, idyllic sight.
His one-room house was nestled between green hills where his cows and chickens could wander and feed.
Our host, Antonio, picked tea leaves from a tree in his yard and busied himself with preparations, taking out a small table, chairs, an ashtray, and banana chips.
We conversed with him for an hour before heading off again (we needed to finish our hike before sunset, after all).
As we left, our host did ask us for a tip, which we were happy to give.
The trail to the Mirador de la Virgen de Santa Agua, a huge statue of Mary and baby Jesus perched atop a mountain, was much easier to follow than the one to Bellavista, being downhill from Runtún.
But, it was less clearly marked and we were forced to ask for directions a couple of times.
From the mirador (lookout), stone stairs led us back to Baños.
What a day repelling and hiking in Baños so far! Still not over, though.
We headed to a gringo-owned restaurant for Happy Hour and a relaxing game of Scrabble (I’d say there were ten to twenty extra tiles in the bag).
Some Dutch people, Hella, Lily, and Tim, were playing Yahtzee at the table next to us, so we joined them for a couple of games, too.
With Happy Hour long since over, we headed to a pub for a game of pool, the girls against the guys.
Hella and I had a winning streak that lasted a few hours, during which time about eight other guys in the place repeatedly challenged us and got their egos bruised.
Finally, though, we lost and followed our by-then large crowd to a discoteca across the street.