Published: September 4th 2010August 29th 2010
Mirador a las Cabñas Indichuris
Relaxing above the Amazon baisin.
An earthquake woke me my first morning in Baños. It would have been much more exciting if I hadn´t thought it was the guy in the bunk above me rolling over!
Baños is situated on the side of a volcano, a reminder that Ecuador is a very new country and still rising with as the Andes rise. I never saw the volcano Tungurahua: the town is too close to the foot of the mountain. Even when I took a night trip, slated to go to the volcano, I saw nothing. We got a view of the town in the dark, a bonfire, and the chance to buy kebabs from a barbque. Perhaps the driver chickened out. Quiteños flock to Baños for weekends and holidays to take the cure.
Baños means bath and the baths in Baños are thermal ones with copious supplies of mineralised hot water piped from inside the volcano. One morning before breakfast I headed to the public baths, which had opened at 4:00. By 7:30 they were quite full, although not as crowed as in the photos that I took later in the day. A freezingly cold shower under water straight from the waterfall,
Genuine South American taranchua spider.
submersion in a pool with water direct from inside the earth almost too hot to bear. Back under the cold, into a larger pool of very warm water where it was just possible to swim. Besides being full of minerals the waters are blessed by the Virgin of the Holy Water, who has wrought no number of miracles. Backpackers use Baños as a base for extreme sports and guided jungle trips.
My own jungle adventure started not in the office of an adventure travel office but in the same hostel dormitory where the earth shook. A guide was staying in the dorm and he persuaded me that I could fit into the adventure trip he was leading out the next day. He guided me to the office in the morning, I paid up, and we were off.
Half the party left on mountain bikes to skid past the spot where puenting is the sport. (Puenting is bungy jumping with the spring taken out of the rope.) The rest of us were in a fourwheel drive with a river raft on the roof. We caught up with the cyclists halfway down the valley and parked their bikes and
Passed on the bus journey from Quito to Baños, Ecuador´s highest volcano.
helmets in a restaurant. They joined us in the vehicle for a while, then we pulled into another restaurant and collected a paddle. A little while later we left the cyclists, their paddle, the raft and one of the guides on the river bank to find their own way to our accommodation. Later they mentioned that no one had asked them whether they could swim, and that the only life jacket had been worn by the guide.
This "extreme adventure" expedition slept in bunk beds in cabañas built for tourists out of jungle materials. We ate food beyond the range that the jungle can offer, including two plates of spaghetti. We trecked through thick growth to swim under waterfalls, wearing rubber boots and rain ponchos provided by the travel company. We mounted a night expedition to snare caymans, paddling a longboat in the dark aswcreepers slashed unexpectely at our faces. I thought of the ghost train ride at Lunar Park. When the guide spotted a baby cayman under foliage near the bank, we wondered if it was kept in a cage, waiting to be presented regularly to tourists.
It was all good fun. We dressed up in local
Also passed on the way there.
gear, drank trago (sugrcane alcohol) and danced salsa. We could hear jungle sounds out there in the background. We could also hear the evangelical youth camp youngsters nearby.
The night noises sounded like Borneo (mainly). The vegetation looked so much like Borneo. The way people used the natural materials in the jungle reminded me of Borneo. The hunidity felt much like Borneo. But every time I looked closer I saw subtle differences. We lay in hammocks at the Indichuris Lookout, and hectares and hectares of the Amazon baisin lay infront of us. A land with no spaghetti, and where the guide´s cell phone would never ring.
We had reached Las Amazonas ... but really we were simply standing on the rim. I came away with a desire for proper Amazon travel.
In BaNos I stayed at the quite wonderful Hostal Chimenea
which has a swimming pool, spa and thermal treatments, and where a single room for US$10 is worth three times that.
I took a basic tour from RainForestur
and the first night we stayed at their own site, Hola Vida. After that we were at the Cabañas Indichuris, owned by Edmundo Vargas,
The view as the highway comes into Baños.
tel 090412226, 032887899, which overlook the confluence of the Río Puyo and the Río Pastaza. Simple dormitory accommodation on the riverbank costs US$5.00 a night or so. The attractions here include a resident shaman, Shaman Wasi, a half-dug swimming pool, a public restaurant-bar, and a museum-cum-souvenir shop.
How I´ve been
This was a bargain-basement tour, but I enjoyed it immensely because the company was such good fun. After soaking in the thermal baths I returned to my base in Quito, partly to rest and partly to spend time in a language school. I wholehearedly recommend the Vida Verde Spanish School
. Robert arrives later this evening, and on Sunday at the crack of dawn we leave for the Galapagos Islands. ... So ... watch this space!
There are more photos below