Published: April 13th 2011April 12th 2011
This may be the only good internet connection that we will have for a long time, so I´m going to give you an extra blog to hold you over. Read it slowly and it will last longer.
The schedule had us two days in Baños, then to Quito with a day trip to Pupillacta but after a half day here, we called HQ and switched it to three days here. Good call. We realized after walking around that our itinerary had a bit too much city, and not quite enough visits to small towns, and Baños fits the bill nicely.
The hotsprings in Baños have long been valued by people in the region for their health benefits, (the full name of the town is ¨Healthy water of Baños¨) and to add to its appeal, a image of the Virgin Mary was seen in one of the local waterfalls in the 1800´s so it´s now a bit of a religious pilgrimage. The result is that Baños is now a very nice little resort town to visit. In addition to friendly streets, good accommodations and food, there are a lot of things to do here: cycling, rapelling down canyons, whitewater rafting,
etc. Looking for family excursions, we chose horseback riding, a visit to the zoo and aquarium and a trip down the valley to see some spectacular waterfalls.
This reminded me of Mark Wilson´s story about his dad Brian singing ´Rhinestone Cowboy´on the back of a horse on a trip to the Rockies. Three beginner riders being led up a ravine by a Spanish speaking guide, Andreas, who looked about thirteen years old. The last time I rode a horse was at Úle and Brenda Steiner´s on a visit to the Ledgers in Kamloops about fifteen years ago. It turned out great though, and I think Andreas had as much fun as we did.
Zoo and Aquarium
Here we saw up close the world´s largest rodent, the Capibara. Amazingly, this looks like a guinea pig that is the size of a german shepherd. Aside from that, more tortoises (If there is an animal to put in a zoo, it´s the tortoise - they hardly move anyway, and seem very happy to stare at people). Lots of boa constrictors at the aquarium , which thrilled Abbey but didn´t do much for her parents. The aquarium has a framed
collage of press clippings showing several successive ´Miss Ecuador´ title holders visiting the aquarium in bathing suits to pose with a snake . I´m thinking maybe they wouldn´t have tried so hard to win if they knew they would have to do that. We saw the same kind of display at the Panama Hat store in Cuenca, but in that case, they probably at least got to go home with a new hat.
Baths & Laundry
The view outside of our hotel window is of a vertical rock face with the Cascada (waterfall) De La Virgen drizzling down.
Right beside the falls are two remarkable attractions. The first is an outdoor public hotspring bath that had a lot of sulphur in it, judging by the colour. This is a steady attraction not only for tourists, but for locals. This is the slow time for tourists, and the pools were full all day. So we made a point of dropping in this morning, and it was pretty neat. Elderly people walking around in the baths to get exercise, toddlers with water wings with parents close by, a young mother breastfeeding in the middle of the pool, and everybody patiently ignoring
Cool way to earn $3 bucks
The hotel provided us with these thin foamy disposable flip flops. I bet Abbey $1 she wouldn´t wear them into town, and Pauline quickly raised that to $3. We didn´t think she would follow through. Wrongo.
the teenage sweethearts who were apparently trying to set a record for necking in a public place.
Beside the baths is a public laundry facility that uses the water flowing from the falls. A long concrete structure flows water through about thirty wash basins and washboards. The water is flowing steadily, and all you need to do is show up with dirty clothes, laundry soap, and a little elbow grease.
Falls and Canyon
Today was a surprise day. After doing laundry and visiting the sulphur hot springs, we were looking for a little bit of adventure. Looked into renting bikes, but settled on hiring a cabbie to take us to the nearby lookouts and waterfalls. We couldn´t have picked a better guide than Byron, who took us to falls in two different canyons. The last one, Pailón del Diablo (Devil´s face) were absolutely amazing. After a 20 minute hike, you can stand right beside these 50 meter falls, and then climb through a small crevasse to stand behind the falls. Pretty nice.
On the way to the waterfalls, we took a photo of a hydroelectric dam. Surrisingly, this site doesn´t have any generators at it, but rather
channels the water into a huge pipe that takes the water to turbines as far as 17 km downstream where the power is generated. This configuration takes advantage of the large drop in elevation (or head)from the water source at the dam to the actual turbine. Using that gain in head, this dam generates over 8,000 kilowatts, which is an amazing amount of power from one dam.
There are more photos below