Published: May 25th 2012May 25th 2012
I eventually left Quito and got myself on a bus to Banos. It is situated 3 and a half hours south of Quito and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ecuador. One of the interesting facts about Banos is that is has an active volcano right on its door step called ‘Tungurahua’ which means ‘Throat of fire’, the last major eruption was in October 1999 but has had activity ever since so makes it a pretty interesting place to be. Seeing as Banos is a popular tourist place as you would expect there are a lot of tour agencies around as well as numerous souvenir shops but there are still a lot of locals around too! There are also tons of hotel’s and hostel’s so was tough to know where to go, in the end I found a nice hostel with a decent cafe/terrace area and checked into a dorm which had no-one else in it so was nice and peaceful. I then took a walk around the city and enquired in a few places how much the White Water Rafting was...with all giving a similar price. I then decided to book in for the next day with
one of them which meant a 9am start the next day. I was looking forward to the rafting because I haven’t done it before and also the other times I have tried in other places river conditions haven’t been good enough. I then treated myself to a steak in a nearby restaurant after living off cereal, ham sandwiches and pasta for the past 2 weeks in the apartment.
I got picked up early the following day and met the people I would be rafting with. The previous day I was told there was around 5 others but in fact there were a lot more! We all squeezed into the van and I got chatting to some Ozzies Xavier and Liz and a guy from Leeds called Ryan. Liz was the only person who had rafted before but she said it was more like drifting along the water, so we all had a few nerves wondering what the conditions were going to be like. After a good hour or more driving we got to the start and were given wetsuits although they weren’t the best. There was the odd long one but most were the short versions...I was given a
long one but Liz was complaining about having a short one so I swapped...the short wetsuit was more than a little tight and that seemed to be a common theme for everyone apart from Liz who changed back to a short one but it was pretty baggy on her ha. We then got given a safety briefing and shown how we control the boat...the guide chose myself and Xavier to be at the front of the boat and be the captains (must be because we are big strong men haha), we had only been saying a minute before the we would rather be at the back ha. Anyway we all dragged the raft into the river and instantly felt the ice cold waters which were a murky colour, we then all jumped in and got going. In our boat was me, Ryan, Liz, Xavier, Josue from Haiti and Tyler from the US along with our guide. There was one other raft that had a few guys from Quito and Graham from the US as well as a German couple so when we first set off we thought they may be more of a stronger team and more efficient but that
didn’t prove to be the case. Once we got going I think me and Xavier realised that we would definitely be the guys getting soaked the most...we began with some small rapids and responding to our guide’s paddling instructions of ‘FORWARD’ or ‘STOP’. Then started more than a few dips in the rapids and the whole boat getting drenched, we then glanced across to see the guide on the other boat jumping around a bit then a tree took him clean out into the river which was funny to see, he then climbed back into their raft as we started to head into faster waters. It was then the main event happened....due to our teams excellence we had overtaken the other raft and made it safely around quite a sharp right-hand bend which had a massive rock in front of it, once we made it round we looked back to see where the other raft was and as we did we saw the raft smash into the massive rock and flip over chucking everyone out of the boat. This then sparked a few minutes of chaos with us trying to spot everyone in the water to try and pull them
out along with trying to stop the other raft as it was upside down and I think a few people were underneath. We managed to pull a few guys onto our raft and a few also clung on to the leaders kayak who was with us...we then managed to all stop at a bank on the side of the river for the others to get over the shock a bit. There was more than a few war wounds going around with cuts and bruises but everyone was ok. I think we then realised in our raft that the same thing could happen so everyone seemed a bit reluctant to get going again but we did...within 30 seconds of moving again though we found ourselves stuck on a rock and our guide wasn’t big enough to move us, there was definitely a moment where I thought we were going to flip but it all turned out ok and we made it to the end without any further incidents. The look of joy on everyone’s face at the end showed how relieved they were to be out the water! I really enjoyed the rafting and definitely would do it again but next
time hopefully in warmer waters because it was freezing!
Later on in the day I went with Liz, Ryan and Xavier to the thermal baths from which Banos gets its name. Most of the baths are fed from the base of the active volcano and apparently has a high mineral content and that is why the water is murky, although we all came to the conclusion a bit of dead skin of the numerous old people may be what they mean by ‘minerals’. The first bath we went into was scorching and the hottest one they have...it took us all a while to full get in but wasn’t too bad after a minute or too. We then moved up the steps to the next level down in heat which was still hot but nice...it is set right next to a waterfall and as we went late evening it was lit up as it got darker outside, so a lovely setting. More and more people started to enter the bath we were in and that included a woman who possibly doesn’t have all her marbles as she got in and swam to the other side frantically kicking her feet and
splashing everyone with the hot water while they are relaxing...I first wandered what she was doing then noticed she was talking to herself aggressively so we all sort of sat out the pool and gave her some distance because as predicted she did another length kicking the whole way which was funny to see everyone faces. It was then time for a quick dip in the cold pool before getting changed and making our way out. It was a nice relaxing hour or so in the baths and the great view and waterfall alongside made it all a better experience.
In the night we went out for some food and after debating all day I decided to go on the Chiva Bus which is like a party bus that takes you to a view point high above the city and also a view of the active volcano supposedly spurting lava out. The 2 other guys from the rafting Josue and Tyler said they were going and I thought it would be a good laugh. I got on the bus which had lots of flashing lights and pumping reggaeton. It then went round the city picking up people then we
started making our way upwards, after maybe a half hour we got to the view point...we all got out and took a walk over only to see a wall of mist...great! Luckily after a few minutes it cleared a bit and we had a great view of Banos but it was then that we found out it is also the view point for the volcano but due to the mist around it we weren’t going to be seeing anything. It made the whole journey, not pointless but a little disappointing but ah well it was only $3. It was then that everyone gathered round and we got told that there would be a show...it was a show but it was only in Spanish and the guy was going round the gringos asking where they are from then making jokes, there was quite a lot of locals who seemed to enjoy it but from one of the locals who knows English she was saying most of the jokes where just making fun of us which was slightly strange but we went with it. He pulled off a few bad magic tricks too but myself and the German guy next to me
weren’t too impressed especially as afterwards he goes round individually asking for a tip so everyone has eyes on you if you don’t....can’t say it’s the best dollar I have spent tipping a guy I did’t understand who probably chucked a few insults my way too but that life. So it was a completely different trip to what I was thinking after looking forward to seeing an active volcano spurting lava out I came away witnessing a dodgy show that I couldn’t understand. We did also get a free drink for our money when we returned which was a shot from a local bar so we went in for that and dicussed the nights events and non-events.
The next day I met up with Liz, Xavier and Ryan again and we decided to hire some buggies and go exploring. Liz said she wouldn’t get in a buggy with Xavier because she doesn’t trust him ha so she came in a buggy with me. We set off in search of the waterfalls nearby and it was nice to drive after such a long time although a bit strange being on the right hand side of the road. After a while
we saw a sign for a waterfall so decided to check it out, we went up a dirt track and gave the little buggies all they have which isn’t a lot ha. When we made it it was a nice waterfall but nothing spectacular so we continued along the track which began to get muddy. That wasn’t stopping Xavier at all with him ploughing through the puddles...I must admit I wouldn’t of minded doing the same but with a lady in the buggy maybe not the best idea as she pointed out to me as Xavier began his mud racing. When we caught them up Ryan and Xavier were completed covered in mud and were astonished how we were near enough clean but we did take a few minutes longer and at this moment proved a good decision ha. We then got ourselves back on the main road for some more fun which involved driving through tunnels, it was more than just that though because they were all streaming with water inside so as we drove through we got soaked which was a good laugh with the guys saying they heard a few screams from Liz as we got drenched.
We continued along the road until we reached a waterfall in the middle of a massive valley, there was also a zip line which you can do which takes you all the way across and over the waterfall or there is the option of going in a basket but we all said that looked a bit lame. After taking some pictures we all decided we were keen but maybe best to do it the following day as the time was ticking for the buggies. We then continued for a little while before turning back....we must have been 15mins or so into our journey back when me and Liz looked behind and couldn’t see the others, it was then that a local in a car said that our amigos were in a tunnel 2 tunnels back. We immediately turned around as we weren’t sure if they had crashed or just ran out of petrol. We did find them and luckily they were ok and it was just petrol but they happened to pick the longest tunnel of them all so they said it was a bit scary walking out with the oncoming traffic. We all had a laugh about it but
at the same time thought maybe our buggy was going to run out as well....they phoned the company to come pick them while me and Liz drove back to Banos hoping our little machine would make it which I’m pleased to say it did! We all then went for another soak in the baths before having some Mexican food. Me, Xavier and Ryan then went back to their hostel and played a few games of cards, afterwards me and Ryan took a walk to see if anyone was in the bars but it was dead so we called it a night.
On the Thursday we were all going to pay a visit to the zip line but I had to pull out due to a few stomach issues which I don’t need to go into, so I just chilled out in my hostel and also took another soak in the baths. I am now going back to Quito for a few days as I am waiting for a package from home to be sent to my Spanish School and I need it to have a working underwater camera which is vital for the next place I want to go...!
Although touristy Banos has a great atmosphere and range of things to do, it’s not only a tourist destination but a weekend getaway for locals too so there is a great mix of people...definitely a must visit in Ecuador!
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