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Published: December 30th 2011
So Banos. What a wonderful little mountain town. Chev and I arrived after a long but beautiful bus ride through the Ecuadorian countryside from Lago Agrio and found ourselves a nice little hostel to rest in as we arrived late in the evening. The next morning we awoke refreshed and ready to find our Kiwi and English friends from Quito. After meeting up with the Fearsome Five, Grant, Mike, Ben, Damian and "Will" and booking some river rafting for the next day we set off on a 23 km bike ride to check out some of the many waterfalls surrounding the town.The bike ride was fun and mainly easy as it was all downhill. We were on the rode so the traffic was a bit scary at times, especially when we had to share the tunnels with the cars, but we never "kissed any cars" as the local guides say. The scenery was amazingly beautiful with mountains and waterfalls all along the road. We even saw a very cute, lonely little donkey. The first stop on our ride was an amazing waterfall in a town called Rio Verde. We hiked down the path to the cascade and were rewarded by a true force of nature. The water was pounding down into a little pool, carved out by water erosion, with such force you could feel it in your heart. There were multiple viewing platforms that had been built over the years and we were even able to go up almost totally behind the waterfall. We had to climb along a path with very long hanging rocks, kinda like a cave, to get there and it was such an amazing sight to come out next to the falling water. We got wet from the spray and felt a great awe for the power of nature. The cool spray of the water helped us for a bit on our hike back up to our bikes, which we had parked at the top of the path but we were both hot and tired at the top none the less. We hoped back onto our bikes after a quick break and headed to the last waterfall on our ride, Machey, where the bike rental guys said we could go swimming. Now we were a bit tired at this point and this last section of the ride was a bit strenuous and I have to honest about the fact that we almost turned back. We persevered though and are so glad we did.We started our decent down the path to the waterfall and arrived at the bottom of a fabulous cascade, rainbow and all. We were the only people and found the most wonderful little swimming hole where we took a dip and even found a little pool we could jump off a rock into. So refreshing and serene. However when it comes to going to waterfalls, when one hikes down one must also hike back up! By the time we go to the top of the mountain, or at least very tall hill, we were coated in sweat and our refreshing swim was a distant memory. And to top this off we had to ride back to Rio Verde, uphill, to get a ride back into Banos! We almost tried to take a bus but we pushed through this last bit and it ended up not being as bad as we thought it would be. We arrived in Rio Verde and found a truck going back to Banos but the driver wouldn't leave until he had more passengers, so what did Chev and I do? We found food of course! And boy were we rewarded for our efforts. We found the most amazing empanadas ever. The woman rolled out, filled and fried those suckers up right in front of us; they were so fresh and came with the best mango salsa I have ever had. We finally headed back to Banos and met up with the boys. Much wine and beer was consumed and much laughter and story telling ensued.The next day we were up bright and early to go white water rafting. We were supposed to go for a whole day but the river was too high to do some of the harder rapids so we only did a half day, but what a half day it was! We paddled, got splashed, laughed, Chev was pushed out of the boat, and we both rode at the front for part of the ride, legs hanging over the edge. Our guide, Andres, was a great guy, very funny and cheeky. He would yell, "Friends, Forward. Forward. STOP. Thank you.". After a good rapid we would do a high five with our paddles. So fun!After Chev and I went for a much deserved massage (and a terrible mani pedi which we both want to forget) the boys made us and some other travellers a big pasta dinner. That was the last night we were going to hang with this wonderful group of travelers so we went out after dinner to do some dancing. Andres, our rafting guide, was at the bar and he gave me a lesson in salsa dancing. It was fun but I have a long way to go. The next day we bid farewell to our Commonwealth friends and Chev and I spent the day buying Xmas gifts, milling about town, eating and trying to catch a glimpse of the active volcano that was erupting next to the town. After a chill day we hopped on a bus headed for Peru. Two countries down, more adventure to come.
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