Wake up. Pack up. Eat up. Walk up to the agents office one last time for the final part of our package deal: puenting. We had all been anxiously waiting for this ever since we heard about what there is to do in Baños and it was finally time. With all of our bags ready to go home afterwards, we walked to the famous San Francisco bridge which was about 10 minutes away. Three of our friends came with us who had already puented the day before for support and to join in on the excitement of it all. This bridge is still in use, with cars passing through, but that doesn't stop the crowds of people from wanting to stand on the sides to watch the jumpers.
Once we were all there, they asked us who wanted to go first. Lorene, who was the most nervous and specifically told us to make sure she didn't bail, decided that she wanted to go first. We watched as she stepped in to her harness and stepped up on to the little ledge hanging off of the bridge, overlooking the beautiful river that ran through the canyon.
The crowd of people stood there with us, just waiting for her to jump! I guess I should explain what puenting is before I go any farther. Puenting is very similar to bungee jumping except that instead of falling straight down and springing back up and down a few times, puenting is when you jump out and then swing when you hit the end of the line. YEEHAW!
Okay, back to Lorene. She was the cutest little thing standing up there. It was a pretty windy day so that made standing on the ledge even more intimidating. Her hands were sealed over her mouth just staring out into open, trying to gain the confidence to jump. I think all of us watching probably screamed as loud as she did as she fell and then was pulled under the bridge. We all ran back and forth across the bridge, waiting to see her pop out from underneath on either side, laughing and screaming.
Nicole went second, Elizabeth third, Hilary fourth and finally it was my turn.
I don't know if I can describe what I was thinking when I was standing up there other than telling myself that I need to actually go through with it the second I start moving in that direction so I didn't lose my head. I remember trying to keep my eyes open but I don't think I did. The head-first-free-fall was incredible and the tightening of the rope did take me a little by surprise but wasn't as straining as I had pictured it to be. Once I was sitting upright and swinging hundreds of feet above the river, I looked up at everyone peeking their teeny heads over the bridge waving their hands at me. Adrenaline rush to the max! It all happened so fast and then it was over. After swinging back and forth a few times, the rope started to lower me down the canyon to where a man was standing on the side to pull me back onto land.
The strange thing about doing these things here compared to in the US is that 1) it's a lot less expensive and 2) no one asks that you sign a waiver. Everyone just goes with the flow of things. Would I do puenting again? Yes I would. My neck was a little sore the next day but was worth it. We all survived the crazy weekend and we all did it together - making it even better and more memorable.
The day didn't quite stop there.
The last three of us to leave bought our bus tickets back to Quito. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that we had assigned seats. Instead of sitting two of us on one side and the other with a stranger, we decided to take the very back seat that had five seats in a row. We were the first ones on the bus, but it didn't take long for us to realize that we had mad a HUGE mistake. The next couple that got on the bus walked back to where we were and looked really confused. They asked us what seats we had so we handed them our tickets because we had no clue. Of course we were in their seats, but they assured us that it was fine and that they would just take ours. What we didn't think of is that the switcharoo would still leave one of our seats open. As more and more people started getting on the bus, the confusion only got worse and they started pointing fingers that always ended up at us three gringas in the back seat. I tried to get the original couple to just switch with us but at that point, they didn't want to move since they were already situated. Eventually everyone sat down somewhere and the bus finally started moving. Ten minutes into the bus ride, one of the men in charge started going up and down the walk way checking tickets and seat numbers. Sure enough, this caused another riot and everyone hated everyone. The man tried to get the 50 people to move to their original seats but everyone refused. I guess that means it worked out okay in the end? I don't know. Regardless, we learned our lesson and have been sitting in our assigned seats ever since.
Baños weekend turned out to be one of my favorite weekends here and we are planning on going back for the weekend of Hilary's birthday! I can't wait. There is still so many things that we didn't get to do while we were there. (To mi familia, when you guys come down I am taking you there.) We'll see how much we can knock out next time. :)
If you'd like, you can watch my friends' puenting videos here: