13 Jun

Baños is a beautiful rural town about 4 hours outside of Quito. Hidden in an Andean valley, it is surrounded by waterfalls, filled with tourist agencies, and is known for its nightlife. The long, windy, bumpy bus ride couldnt keep our group of 27 students away. We arrived with just enough time on Friday to find some dinner and check out the salsa clubs. After a delicious meal of arroz con pollo (reminiscent of Costa Rica!!!), we ran to the discotecas. We stood out like 27 sore thumbs. I must have been called gringita a thousand times, and the men are so forward it´s shocking. Realizing this scene wasn´t what we were interested in, we found a small karaoke bar and sang American songs with an Ecuadorian karaoke star. Everyone went to bed fairly early, because we had a crazy day to look forward to.

The thing about the small town of Baños is not that there isn´t anything to do, but that there is too much to do. It took us until 10am to decide which activities we wanted to do–most people planned on doing at least three! I was part of a group of 16 people who decided to try canyoning, a bike tour of the waterfalls, and dinner at the natural hot springs. Canyoning is as intense as it sounds. You´re given a rope, a harness, and 30 seconds worth of instructions on how to repel down a waterfall. After a few bruises and cuts, you begin to figure it out. However, no number of trial runs could have prepared me for the last waterfall. Being the gringita that I clearly am, I thought they said it was 38 feet tall. Turns out Ecuadorians don´t use feet…they use meters. 38 meters and 38 feet are VERY different heights. After desperately trying to explain to the tour guide that I´d rather take the 3 mile detour than go down 38 meters vertically on a rope that had begun to feel incredibly flimsy, he laughed and lowered me down to a point in which I had no other choice but to repel down. It was terrifying, but I made it to the bottom. Unsure if my hands were shaking because of fear or the freezing water, I quickly found a place to sit down and catch my breath next to the river. We then walked about a mile out of the river, to where the bikes were waiting for us. Within moments it began to downpour. I realized quickly that my shorts and tshirt weren´t going to be enough to keep me warm, and tried to bargain with the guy to let me keep my wetsuit to bike in…apparently no one bikes in wetsuits. Determined to continue no matter what, we biked along what we thought was going to be a trail, but instead was the freeway. It didn´t have a bike lane, and was along the side of a cliff, so falling either direction meant almost certain death. As stated before, traffic in Ecuador is not pedestrian, nor biker friendly. So biking along the freeway, in the rain, to try to see waterfalls that were closed due to foul weather was pretty miserable. Eventually we got to the end of the 12km ride, and took a truck back to the hostel to shower before heading to the hot springs aka los baños.

Around then, I realized that I´m really not feeling well. I thought maybe I was carsick, but after showering and lying on my bed for 30 minutes, I knew something was seriously wrong. I ran to el baño and vomited until there was nothing left inside of me. Now is when I add to my “Lessons I´ve Learned in Quito” list:

#7. Don´t eat anything fresh that you can´t peel–In this case, salad. I knew this rule, but was reassured by a friend that any salad at a restaurant was safe. Hungry, and not really sure what I was in for, I ate the entire thing right before running to catch the bus to Baños. They say E. coli takes about 24 hours to hit you, and at this point, I was at hour 25. After about 6 hours of running to el baño, I had lost enough fluids and energy to concern any of the med students I was traveling with. They insisted on taking me to the private hospital, where an English speaking doctor was on call 24hours. The differences between this hospital and the ones I had seen in Quito were shocking. It was clean, there were three people reopening the hospital just for me, they performed tests within 15 minutes, and gave me an IV and a bag of antibiotics within the hour. The doctor said he studied in the States, but came back to Baños to help his people. This kind of surprised me, because he said he generally only treats tourists–he charges too much for the general population. He said that generally, tourists get E. coli or some other infection from traveling in the jungle. Groggy, empty, and still nauseous, I hobbled to the car as he handed me a piece of paper that he explained was so I could file a claim with my insurance to get reimbursed. The meds, an IV, and after hours care cost me a grand total of $64–the equivalent of nearly 2 weeks pay for a local. After spending time here understanding the health care system from the doctor´s perspective, it was fascinating (yet miserable) to see it from the patient´s perspective as well. Although I don´t think my experience can compare to that of that of a woman in labor in a room she shares with 10 others, it definitely allowed me to see some of the disparities within the Ecuadorian healthcare system. The antibiotics are working, the IV definitely helped, and I´m going to go back to clinic tomorrow. It´ll be a different clinic this week, and I´m sure it will continue to broaden my understanding of the different forms of healthcare here. So, tomorrow, when I´m starving after clinic, instead of the fresh, healthy looking salad, I´ll gladly order the beans, rice, and eggs that I´ve recently gotten sick of, because at least they won´t give me E. coli.


4 Responses to “Baños”

  1. David Kehlet June 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    I just returned from Malaysia. Tips that seem to work for me there: Hold out for a restaurant that has concrete floor, not dirt. Don’t drink too much. Hope that visiting the temple of Kwan Yin, the goddess of mercy, pays off.

  2. Patricia June 13, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    Siento mucho que te hayas enfermado, por favor sigue los consejos que te dieron aunque la comida o el restaurante se vean limpios no es seguro, mas vale que comas frijoles y arroz y estes sana que si vas a comer otra cosa y te vas a enfermar. Por favor cuidate yo seguire pidiendo por ti. Un abrazo

  3. Shannon Rieger June 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    At least it didn’t happen on the bus?? Oh Danika, just your luck! Hope you’re feeling much better!

  4. Anita June 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    The bill in US for the same treatment in a private clinic would have been very high, right?

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