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Published: January 15th 2016
After another long bus ride (this time comfortable thanks to a recommendation made by Walter our Cuybeno guide) and a fairly unpleasant encounter with a taxi driver who charged us a taxi fare and dropped us nowhere near our hotel we felt that Banos may not be the best place to be. How wrong we were!!
Our hotel room at Backpacker Balcones was fantastic and beautifully situated within earshot of the river which soothed us to sleep each night of our stay.
After we cleared our minds we bounced into Banos centre to see what activities were on offer. The short answer being if you love adventure sports then Banos is the place to be. Bungy jumping (called puenting here) tick! White water rafter double tick! If you can imagine it then in all likelihood there will be at least one operator who offers it. In addition to being an adventure capital Banos is situated in a truly spectacular location. Encircled by forest covered hills with waterfalls scattered like dangling necklaces with streets paved with cobble stones, two outstanding parks and a church with art, architecture and ambiance that no church we have seen since can even come close
Playing with the candles
this young boy tentatively built new candles from the old burnt out candles. It reminded Tommy of a time she witnessed a homeless person buy lunch using the coins from a wishing well.
to matching. Banos captivated us and we took every opportunity we could to explore its streets.
We found a market where we enjoyed delicious humitas, café con leche and conversation with the owner two days in a row. The food, particularly the local market and street food is outstanding and matched with friendly service. We didn’t bother with the hosts of restaurants designed for the holiday makers and do not feel that we missed out in the slightest.
Banos continued to delight us with our journey too and experience at the Casa del Arbol (swing at the edge of the world). Now dear readers I need to debunk the myth implied by every tumblr and instagram image of the swing but I absolutely do not
want this to dissuade you from visiting Casa Del Arbol. Are you ready for the debunking? This is not a location that is entirely peaceful with only you and the swing and no other people at all. Sorry! Tourists abound and yes you will have to wait in line for your chance to ride your chosen swing (there are two) however the sheer joy of being able to swing out into the air
Tuppence boldy takes the first swing
Trusting that Tommy wouldn't put her in danger.
watching the clouds shift across the nearby volcano and countless trees is a treat that I cant describe to you in words. Also your inner child will be cheering (I know mine was) because here is a place that is dedicated to the enjoyment of swings! Where else will you find that? So definitely go Casa Del Arbol is absolutely worth doing just maybe don’t go with a tour group. It is easy to visit without one and far less expensive.
Other highlights of Banos followed the next day with our chosen adventure activity (a tough choice!) zip lining at high speeds and increasingly crazy positions (my favourites include what I term the half sloth: hanging upside down but holding onto the lines with both hands for security and the superman: exactly how it sounds flying birdlike with both hands free) through trees over rivers and in view of astoundingly beautiful mountains. To make this day even more perfect we rode part of the way back to Banos standing in the back of a pickup truck to the sound of the song ¨Bad bad Leroy Brown¨ thanks to the negotiations of a friendly Colombian.
We also enjoyed a
truly stunning walk down a hill and onto a suspension bridge to witness the power of the river rushing through a waterfall laden gorge and wandered up to the Cascada De La Virgin a waterfall with a shrine dedicated to the Virgin who is said to have protected Banos from a volcanic eruption. We laughed and joked as we climbed the viewing platforms all the while trying not to slip over and get completely soaked.
When our time at Banos came to an end we were reluctant to leave (we had extended our stay there already!) but it was time to go. We had to make it to Cuenca for Christmas Tommy´s favorite festivity!
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