Published: July 3rd 2012July 3rd 2012
A four hour bus ride from Quito rewarded us with Banos, a laid back town wedged among green mountains, a snow capped volcano and a river flowing fast to the Amazon. The surrounding peaks, valleys, forest, rivers and waterfalls makes Banos a perfect place to trek, bike ride, river raft and a host of other exciting outdoor activities. Our base was the Hostel Chimenea, which got us a nice comfortable clean room with hot showers, wifi, TV and friendly service for a total of $17 a night. Adding to our comfort was Chimenea's full American breakfast which included two eggs, coffee, fresh squeezed juice and three breads for $2.75. At these prices we made ourselves get stuck here for five nights.
On our first full day we choose to rent bikes and head mostly downhill through mountain gorges on the road that follows the Pastaza River. Our destination was 21 kilometers to the small town of Rio Verde, whereby we could hitch a ride back for $1.50. So with bikes underneath and helmets on top, we coasted down the highway until being distracted by strange looking creatures being roasted roadside. They were guinea pigs on a rotisserie bereft
of all the warm cuddly cuteness derived from being childhood pets. In fact, the roasting rodents looked like they previously endured torture before being skewered to a stake.
Moving on down the road, we crossed bridges, entered tunnels and were just enthralled by the bounty of nature on both sides of the road. Mother Nature is beautifully alluring here, but as we were to experience, dangerously deceiving at the same time.
One of the main stops are two gorgeous cascading waterfalls side by side across the river. We rode a gondola type basket down the mountainside to a bridge that crosses over to the base of the waterfalls. It's picture perfect, for visitors are allowed to walk up to the waterfalls as close as can be without being soaked. Amei posed, I posed but we were both spooked by some rocks falling from high above. I asked the caretaker if falling rocks were normal. He said yes and added that rocks had been tumbling down the night before. His nonchalance reassured me, so we walked back across the bridge to the gondola and looked back for one last view. And then there was a snap, people
screaming, running, as the mountain had had enough and simply roared with a colossal landslide. Boulders the size of small cars, rocks, dirt, trees all came sliding down over a thousand feet until enveloped in a fog of dust. As the scene cleared, the place where we had been standing only ten minutes before was covered by bone breaking boulders. Whew, close to cashing in life insurance policies. Ok well we dodge a massive bullet, but what else to do but continue on our bike ride down the road, eyeing hillsides wearily and inevitably reaching our destination. The days that followed were made up of mountain hikes, healthy meals and wanderings around town. Banos for us was memorable, for its natural beauty, comfortable accommodations, friendly folks, low prices and of course reminding us of how fickle and fatal mother nature can be. Next stop Cuenca.
There are more photos below