Hot Bath


This blog entry about the events of Friday, November 07, 2003 was originally posted on November 08, 2003.

DAY 20: Baños is a town in a valley surrounded by lush green mountains, one of which gets really excited and ejaculates liquid hot magma every so often.  In 1999, the Volcán Tungurahua erupted, causing a major evacuation of the town, and since then the town has been on guard.  In Baños, after you look up the weather forecast, you look up the volcano forecast.

A major eruption hasn’t happened in three years, and in this time, tourism has been booming for Ecuadoreans and foreigners alike.  The word “baños” means “baths” and it is here people come to soak in thermal baths naturally heated by the volcanic activity below.  The closest and most popular of these baths are the Piscines de la Virgen, a facility on the east end of town conveniently placed adjacent to a scenic natural waterfall.

The pool of the hot water was about as sanitary as public pools go, at least I had hoped.  Without the use of chlorine and the presence of natural sulfuric sediment, the water (picture above) was yellow-greenish and so murky that once you stuck your feet in you couldn’t see them.  I know what you may be thinking — public pool, yellowish tint, warm water — because I thought the same thing.

However, no one seemed to mind and I didn’t actually see any public urination — they save that for the streets and the trees in the park, remember? — so I did as the Bañosians.  I blended in pretty well and joined the Ecuadoreans when we all stared at the four gringos playing cards on the side.  I thought that one of the girls might be American until I noticed what looked like two brown hamsters growing from her armpits. 

After a while it finally sunk into my head that taking a hot soak on a sunny 80° day just seemed silly, so I exited the questionable water and just wandered poolside to take some photos of the waterfall.  A guy on a lounge chair noticed my big Canon AE-1 SLR camera.  “Amigo,” he called to me.

I managed to figre out through the Spanish words I knew that his name was Pablo and that he, his wife and son were on vacation from the city of Guayaquil.  Recognizing the international index-finger gesture for “take a photo,” I figured he wanted me to take a picture of him and his family. 

I thought it was an unusual request but I entertained him anyway.  I bid him farewell, but as I walked away he started saying something I couldn’t understand.  Soon, I realized that he thought I was one of the many guys around the area with Polaroid cameras that sold instant photos to tourists.  I wanted to explain that it wasn’t a Polaroid camera and that I was using slide film that had to be developed, but I didn’t know any of the Spanish words for any of that and just took off really fast.

THE REST OF THE AFTERNOON I wandered the streets of town.  I bought a soda from one of the street vendors — who didn’t give me the bottle.  Instead she poured the drink into a baggie and wrapped it around a straw.  I thought that perhaps it was a good idea for recycling purposes, but it just felt weird drinking out of a bag.  It was like walking around town sipping on a breast implant.

I saw the Basilica Notra Señora del Rosario and its adjacent Spanish courtyard.  I walked over a bridge that went over a scenic gorge to a trail that went up a mountain for a great view of the city.  Unlike Quito, it remained a sunny day and didn’t rain.

IT’S A FUNNY THING about the backpacker trail.  Everyone seems to have the same book, Lonely Planet’s South America on a Shoestring, and knows the same narrow information.  Everyone seems to start in Quito, take Spanish for a couple of weeks, and then head south.  By this rationale, every so often a “graduating class” of a Spanish school in Quito eventually moves on their way down to the cities mentioned in the guide, which is why I ran into Hugo the day before and Anita, my Swiss schoolmate that afternoon.  She was with a friend and had just arrived the night before.

“What are you doing tomorrow?” I asked.

“I don’t know.  Probably nothing.  Whereever we walk, people see that we are foreigners and hand us flyers and flyers for all the different things you can do here.  It’s all pretty much the same as everywhere else; horseback riding, rafting, see the volcano,” she said.  “What are you doing?”

“I might rent a bike and ride down to Puyo,” I said. 

“Ah, you have the Lonely Planet book too, huh?”

There was no use hiding the truth.

I RAN INTO NAVID at random just as he was sitting down to dinner after just arriving into town, and so I joined him.  Later, I went out to the bars with him and Hugo — a sort of Class of The First Week of November 2003 reunion — but not before taking a nice hot shower.

I wondered if the water coming out of the shower head was the same murky volcanic water from the thermal baths, but I tried not to think about it too much.  Golden showers just aren’t my thing.

Next entry: The Gorge

Previous entry: Movin’ Right Along

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Comments for “Hot Bath”

  • lush green mountains that ejaculate liquid hot magma!!!  what’s not to love about that?  horray for pictures!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  02:06 PM

  • oooo….nothing like some hot liquid magma. Were you able to see the lunar eclipse last night? would have liked to see a picture of soda in a ziploc. Car’s runnin good. 1000 miles so far. woohoo!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  02:38 PM

  • Has anyone used the comments section to actually send you on a mission, yet?

    I was going to suggest that you go whitewater rafting, but that activity is described here on the internet as being extremely dangerous in that area. 

    So:  why don’t you ride down the waterslide at the Piscinas Moderna, next to the Ba?os de la Virgen?

    Or:  drink beer out of a mechanical heart implant.

    [Also:  I just gave you an extremely valuable plug on my website ( ).  Your traffic is certain increase by two-or three-fold.]

    Posted by mrMacDowell  on  11/08  at  05:14 PM

  • Hi Erik,

    I don’t know which picture is worse, the poop picture or the fat guy in the speedo picture.

    Posted by Warren  on  11/08  at  05:34 PM

  • This post gave me some laughs.  You really know how to paint a picture when telling a story. 
    Great pics!  Banos looks gorgeous.  Although I was a little disappointed in the pools, I imagined it to look more like a lush exotic lagoon with crystal blue water and steam rising from it.
    Oh well, keep em’ comming!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  05:41 PM

  • Hey Erik, you’d love the hot spring pools in the Azores, the only difference is the giant tropical gardens surrounding them. You gotta go there.

    Love the pics, more, more!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  05:43 PM

  • HAHAHA smile i like the pablo polaroid incident!! you should have collected money from him before you ran off.

    whitewater rafting..hey, if you can raft the zambezi, you’re ready for anything! (just don’t bust your knee again)

    it’s not a very lonely planet over there in ecuador.. you keep bumping into everyone you know!! you’re a popular kid.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  05:46 PM

  • oops! almost forgot…

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  05:47 PM

  • Looks like I’ll have to invest in the LP guide if I want to be as popular as you!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  06:22 PM

  • Thanks for the comments…  Keep them coming!

    Shea:  Oh, so that WAS the lunar eclipse!  Navid and I were walking in the town plaza and noticed a dark shadow over the moon…and right before our naked eyes the moon just disappered!  We thought it might be a cloud, but it was a pretty clear night, so we figured it was an eclipse.  Now I know, and knowing is half the battle!

    MrMacDowell:  Thanks for the plug!

    Warren:  I’ll have to take a picture of a guy in a Speedo taking a poop…

    Rina:  Well, I knew what to expect… I saw the hot baths on an episode of Globe Trekker and recognized it immediately…  it was just as murky as it was on TV…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  09:26 PM

  • Dude, get yourself checked out. That pool looks filthy. I mean look at that fat guy with the skimpy bathing suit!! You know he did something in the pool.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  09:37 PM

  • I laughed out loud… twice. Once on brown hampsters, and the other on breast implants. Oh the people you see, and the food you consume. Good stuff, keep in coming!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  10:43 PM

  • i’ll trade you the speedo picture for ones i have of a 300 lb. topless woman on the mediterranean.. oh and a backshot of two saggy 65 yr. old topless women with thongs on.. i love traveling..
    oh and they do the bagged soda thing in the philippines too.. wierd..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  12:44 AM

  • those 2 brown hamsters- one of them was prabably the cuy I had for dinner tonite!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  01:01 AM

  • Heheh, reminds me of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland…where the water is heated by runoff from the local power plant an arms throw away!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  02:22 AM

  • ditto to moman’s comment…when i read HOT BATH, i was thinking blue lagoon too smile only, the air temp in iceland was about 30 degrees…so that HOT BATH was worth the dip.

    what’s in the middle of that pool? everyone in your pic seems to be glued to the edges… ha!

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  02:44 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
The Gorge

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Movin’ Right Along


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