Thursday, May 30, 2013

Oh, The People You Meet

Wow, I just reread my last post on here--super depressing. Sorry about that. Gonna chalk it up to PMS and an unexpected fee for canceling a visa.
Anyway, I just returned from another beautiful, relaxing trip to Baños, the lovely touristy town at the base of a volcano and surrounded by the huge, verdant Andes. I went there to visit a friend from Idaho who's been volunteering in the jungle and now is working at a restaurant downtown. We hiked all over and drank good beer (there's a microbrewery that has IPAs there! There are no IPAs in Ecuador.) and I even saw the (active) volcano (Tungurahua), which is usually lost in the clouds. 
For some reason during this trip, I started thinking about all of the crazy, awesome, eccentric, and friendly people I've met so far while living here--many of whom I've already forgotten the names of and many who I know I'll never see or hear from again--but all of whom I've shared a lot of great experiences with. I'm going to start posting about the interesting people I meet every so often now.
Last time I went to Baños it was for Easter weekend. There is a pilgrimage every Easter weekend from Ambato to Baños, which is 45 km or so (27 miles?). Anyway, people walk all night, oftentimes with the whole family. Then, when they get to Baños, they walk up the 600+ steep steps to a statue of the Virgen to ask for forgiveness. Then they go to Mass, drink a ton of sugarcane alcohol, and are absolutely hammered in the streets for a good portion of the day. 
Anyway, I met an 18 year-old American boy who had done this pilgrimage by himself, seemingly on a whim. He knew one of my friends there so he met us for breakfast after the pilgrimage (and after he'd been pressured into drinking aguardiente with Ecuadorians in the street) and decided that yes, he'd like to hike with us around Baños. He had just walked ALL NIGHT, taken shots of probably homemade alcohol, and later confessed that he'd been struggling with diarrhea for quite some time, most likely from parasites. But, he was totally game for a hike up the Andes. We hiked all day, and since he didn't have a hostel or anything, he had all of his belongings on his back the whole time. He also was wearing sneakers full of holes and I don't think he'd changed his clothes or showered for a long time. I don't remember his name now, (Bryan or maybe Ryan), but we hiked all over and hitchhiked back down and had a great time that day. He was really fun and easily excitable and never once complained about how tired or sore he must have been. At the end of the day, since we were Couchsurfing and he had no place to stay, he joined us. (We fit four people on a single bed for the night, by the way, which I'm pretty proud of). 
That trip also resulted in two other new friends--one awesome Ecuadorian named Jorge who knows everything about hikes in the area and a crazy Frenchman named Francois, a master of Spanglish. But neither of them topped the most mature and adventuresome 18 year-old I've ever met. 
I don't seem to have a picture of his face, but here are his feet! 

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