Today, after a 20 mile bike ride, I climbed into a wooden box and steamed myself. Well, actually an Ecuadorian man steamed me. In Spanish steamed is al vapor.
Banos is a small mountain town South of Quito, known for it’s hot springs and public baths. It’s a major tourist draw, not only for backpackers but for Ecuadorians too. On weekends, the public pools are chock full of brown skinned kidswrapped in cheap blow up plastic life jackets and speedos, flipping off the diving boards and squealing with delight. Banos is also known for it’s outdoor activities (biking, hiking, rafting) and it’s taffy. Shopkeepers stand in every doorway pulling the sticky whitish taffy from a peg. (More photos of Banos and Quito on photobucket! ) But back to the steam box…
For $3.50, I was treated to an hour of heaven on the first floor of our hostal. Imagine a small wooden bench, big enough for one person (me). Now around me on the bench is a wooden and cement box, closing me in from all sides, except one small hole, just big enough for my neck.
The bottom of the box is filled with fresh eucalyptus branches and a small spigot in one corner starts releasing warm steam so the whole box fills with eucalyptus droplets. They only let you sit for 4 minutes at a time (and believe me, I couldn’t have cooked any longer!) before they release you. The next step involves cold water in some way or another. The first two rounds I was responsible for dumping it over myself, one body part at a time. The third round I plopped down into a large bucket of cold water and splashed myself. the last round I was sprayed with a hose, up one side and down the other. Even the bottoms of my feet. Between Cold Water Dumps, it was back to the box.
The whole cycle is repeated over an hour and by round three I felt like I was high. I have never been so relaxed- it was other worldly. It must be something about the cold and hot cycles that affect your energy and circulation. Or perhaps they were fibbing about the eucalyptus and they were really coca leaves. 😉 Whatever it was, it was wonderful.
Breakfast: Omlette. coffee, homemade bread $2
Bike rental” $5 for the day
Entrance fees to the waterfall: $3
Bus ride home and ice cream: $3
Rum and OJ before dinner: $1