Next stop Banos, home of thermal baths, where people come to relax, unwind and scald themselves. The first afternoon was pretty chilled, owing to the fact that my stomach decided I´d had it too easy for the last 6 weeks. The first stop was a restaurant serving ´menu del dia´ only. Unfortunately on this occasion, that meant tripe. With a dodgy tummy, there was no way that was happening, so I mounted a revolt, and led a splinter group to another venue. Turns out this was a good decision, as the other 8 members of the group ended up with a serious dose of the shits. I’m talking doctors, injections, the works. As icebreakers go, they don’t get any better than that and the group has bonded pretty well!! Naturally, I tried not to feel too smug for having avoided the plague.
The first stop was to sample the local thermal baths. Having had a pretty nice thermal baths experience in Columbia, i was not prepared for what I was confronted with. There were 3 pools which were, to our horror, absolutely heaving, and a really dodgy colour. It seemed to be the place the locals congregate, and we found ourselves surrounded by fat, hairy old men wearing budgy smugglers. And children, which may have explained the dodgy colour. And one token buff Aussie, also wearing budgy smugglers. Rather than run away screaming, we decided to embrace it and hit the downstairs pool. I managed to wade in up to my thighs before i registered the temperature of the water – a scalding 42c. Turns out there are 3 pools, cold, hot and scalding. As ‘scalding’ was unbearably hot, we took a dip in the heaving ‘hot’ pool before deciding that we’d had the full experience.
Day 2 was a little more physical. A 16k cycle followed by a short hike down to a waterfall. On the way, we stopped at a bridge to indulge the extreme sports enthusiasts with a little ‘puenting’. Basically this means putting on a harness attached to the end of a rope, jumping off the bridge and swinging underneath. Think bungee jumping without the bounce. You are then lowered to the ground. I contemplated it for about 5 minutes before bottling-out and leaving it to the crazy Aussies. I’m sure there will be plenty of bridges for me to jump off on this trip! The cycle however was good fun, although a little scary with the crosswind in the valleys, and I saw my life flash before my eyes as i tried to navigate around a donkey at the same time as a big truck was trying to navigate around me!!
The ‘short walk’ to the waterfall was a 15minute bounce down a big hill. I remember thinking that coming back up was really going to suck, and I was so right. Of course by then, the food poisoning was starting to kick in and some of our number were starting to feel pretty terrible! After cutting my back scrabbling through a cave, getting soaked by the waterfall and getting my ass kicked walking back up the hill, i decided I just had to wrap a boa constrictor around my neck for a photo op. Thankfully, we got a truck to take us and our bikes back to Banos. By the evening, almost the entire group had been wiped out, which effectively wrote-off the next day. So I chilled, ate, got a manicure and massage, and wondered how long my rear would be saddle-sore. Intrepid are missing a trick – they should remarket themselves as a ‘weight loss boot camp’.