August 29th:

A cold night in Quito with an attractive paranoid stranger.

At midnight I arrive in a country where I can’t speak the language beyond "taco", "salsa", and "nacho", yet I feel well-prepared with the knowledge obtained from the book "Worst Case Scenarios: Travel Edition". I am armed with important skills such as how to pass a bribe, how to deal with a mugger, etc. So I immediately latch on to another paranoid solo white traveler, Ellis. As you can see in this picture, she has her back pack on backwards, so no one can steal anything from her pack without her knowing--standard paranoia, but safe traveling form. Kudos Ellis. Ellis and Sean McGrail

We stayed in a dirty hotel with no hot water or heat, which you think wouldn’t be a problem for a city on the equator, but since it is at 9,000 feet, it is very cold at night. We picked beds and unfortunately I picked the one that reminded me I was a lonely, lonely man. The bed broke upon me sitting on it, which I wish I could say it broke because Ellis and I were making mad passionate love, but nothing of the sorts happened. I was forced to use my ingenuity in creating a bed that I could get 5 hours of sleep on. After some manuvering I was able to create an adequate sleeping area. Anyway we both slept until 5:30- she was catching a bus to the coast to meet friends at the beach and I was off to the Amazon.

I boarded the bus, which would be a 4-hour ride to Banos (which literally translates to “Bathroom”…there are several hot springs there where people swim). I arrived and I went for a quick dip (mostly because the hot springs are hygienically challenged- imagine a claudron of boiling hot dead skin and hair and that was the hot springs) just so I could say I did it. Some short hikes to some view points and then I grabbed a tour to The Amazon.

Now I thought it might be a good idea to get a guide that didn’t speak English, this way I would be forced to learn Spanish. Tip from me to you: it’s not a good idea…again not my mother's smartest child. Luckily there was a guy from Spain that came with us, and he spoke some English.

We saw amazing waterfall after waterfall, Macaws (big colorful birds), many funky bugs and Ants carrying 10 times their weight along with an Indian village, where we took a carved-out wooden boat down the river.

Now, I expected this boat ride to be just a quaint tourist ride down a calm part of the river. But I was shocked and quite frightened when I saw white water! (I knew I shouldn’t have skimped on my insurance policy!) There were several times when we hit rocks and the boat would slam to one side or the other. I would look back to make sure the Indian guide was still on board or to see how he fended off the piranha so that if I went in I could get some tips. It was much more fun and much more scary (and cheaper) than Disney’s Amazon River queen ride in Orlando.

Here are some pictures of the description above.

August 30th: Sean makes a Faux-pau in Spanish

Upon returning to Banos, I decided to go see the only tourist attraction in the area- an old church (seen below).

Banos church with Sean McGrail

So while I was there poking around I thought it might be interesting to catch a mass while I was there. I grew up Catholic and even went to an all Boys Catholic school so one might think that I would have the routine down by now. But as always I was the kid who would cheat off the kid next to me during the test, so while the mass was proceeding I decided to follow the guy in front of me for cues on when to stand and sit. I mean he looked like he was dressed in his Sunday best, so I thought he might be a good guy to follow. For the first few up and downs my plan is working flawlessly. When he stands, I stand, and everyone else stands. When he sits, I sit, and everyone else sits. Then just as I start to get that 1/2 way thru mass coma glaze look on, he stands, I stand, but everyone else remains seated. I am a little out of it because I was on the verge of falling asleep, the way church always has, and it takes me a few seconds to register that no one else except me and this guy are standing up. Not only that I notice everyone is staring at me and either gasping or giggling. Sheepishly, I sit back down and look at the guy in front of me...he was not very happy with me. It turns out that it was a christening not a mass! So when the preist said" would the father of this child please stand up", to see both of us rise must have made everyone in the place a little uncomfortable. I left without realizing the depth of my faux pa...that was the last church I visited on my trip.

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