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Published: June 19th 2016
Baños - Known for being the place people go for activities in Ecuador. Nearly most travellers we had met had mentioned this place so there was no doubt that it was going to be touristy.
To get here from Latacunga we hopped on a 2 hour bus to Ambato then another bus to Baños. Arriving in Baños we guessed it right, this place was all about tourism. It was so strange seeing so many westerners in the same place at once compared to last few places we had visited. There were tour shops with bikes and buggies vying for people's attention, women trying to draw you in with massages and enough eateries & tourist trinket shops to reflect the numbers of tourists here and then some.
It always gives you a good feeling when you arrive in a place and the weather is good though. The sun was in full force and as we walked through the town we could not help but admire its location. Baños was located in a valley surrounded by green grassy mountains at the edge of each side and corner. Almost like walls towering over the town but instead of feeling trapped inside it,
it rather felt like a little tourist oasis.
Having not booked a hostel we walked around a little and decided on Plantas y Blancos. We liked the roof terrace that gave us a good panorama of the town and great views of a nearby waterfall plus the dorms were cheap. As we had arrived mid afternoon, we had no set plans so decided to take it easy, find somewhere to eat and stroll the town. We felt overwhelmed a little by all the tourists (local and international), all the different and familiar accents and all the local businesses vying for our attention.
Like in China we spotted many locals pulling, twisting and hooking over with what looked like some sort of dough, repeating this process. Although these had much more colours than we had previously seen. We were offered some to try and were surprised we liked it. It's like a sweet chewing candy/taffy, quite sticky and awful for your teeth but if you have a sweet tooth like P and the locals here you may just like it. We bought the guanabana and the mora flavours.
The following day was nothing like the day we arrived,
it was miserable. It rained heavily and continuously so we used this opportunity to catch up with blogs whilst enjoying the rooftop views. It makes the whole process of blog writing easier when you have a beautiful calming setting around you.
During our stay here, we set out upon a plan to hike to the Casa del Arbol and jump on the swing that hung over the mountain side and 'into the clouds'. The first part of the climb involved climbing a very steep trail that sloped its way up the mountain. On the way we passed horses that were located right in the middle of the narrow path seemingly unwilling to give us space to pass by. Chris always goes first in these situations followed by P being reassured that the horse is not going to kick back as we pass. 40 sweaty minutes later and we were at the top, or so we thought. We had great views over the town and so we rested a little up there, talking to another couple (Spanish) who had made it up before us.
Before we left, one of the hostel workers informed us once we got to the
top, we would need to follow another trail for maybe 2 hours or less to find this swing we wanted to be pictured in. He told us the trail was flat. How wrong he was. He admittedly hadn't actually taken this trail himself and for us it was a little disappointing to realise that the trail from here kept going up. We trekked through heavily forested areas; muddy, wet and surrounded by all kinds of flying insects. Every now and then we would cross a road, a short respite from the forest before venturing back in again along the trail. Not what we expected and not really pleasant. During one road crossing we were slightly confused about which trail to follow so stopped a car to ask. The driver kindly offered to give us a ride as he explained we had a very long way to walk. We could have made it on our own eventually, but this was by far the more appealing option.
We arrived at the swing at the top the same time as a bus load of tourists arrived and waited patiently and nervously as people had their pictures taken as they swung into the
clouds. Some people tried some daring stunts as they swung upside down over the ledge! The swing was really impressive though, such a great idea, especially on a clear day with a view of the volcano opposite. Unfortunately for us, it wasn't a clear day.
P went first climbing into the seat and strapping up. She tried to ready herself to swing forward but just could not do it. Chris took her place, letting out a little yelp as he swung forward over the edge. Eventually P had built up the courage and hopped on again, screaming for a minute or 2 swinging over the edge with her legs in the air. The idea of the ropes snapping or you falling down the mountain terrified P much more than others. It all proved for some great pictures though.
After having fun on the small zip line in the neighbouring park and buying a cheese empañada (pasty) covered in sugar (it tasted as strange as it sounds) we made our way back down the mountain. P picked up some stones in preparation for some territorial dogs but thankfully there were no angry dogs here, just some incredible scenery. Plus
the further down we walked the clearer the skies became (as we were descending down from the clouds). Luck was upon us again as a pick up truck kindly stopped and allowed us to jump in the back and take us to town. He saved us a couple of sweaty hours. Plus we still got to witness the incredible views and mountainous green areas with all kinds of beautiful waterfalls cascading their way down the mountains.
We could not visit Baños and not visit the popular thermal baths, so that evening we caught a taxi to the thermal baths on the outskirts of the town. There is one right in the centre of town but we had heard they were really crowded with lots of tourists bathing shoulder to shoulder. The thermal baths we visited only had a maximum of 6 other local people (4 of whom a family) across the 6 pools. So much space for us all.
The hottest thermal bath proved to be hotter than any other thermal baths we have ever tried. We could only last a few minutes before our breathing became too heavy and we needed to cool down. In between this
time P often took a quick swim in the coldest pool (it felt ice cold in comparison) although Chris stayed in the warmer pools.
The locals believe these thermal baths have healing qualities because of all the minerals inside. Although we cannot say whether it was true or not, we loved how our bodies retained the warmth and heat for some time after leaving the baths. We actually left just before closing time in the evening, realising we were on the outskirts of town...where no taxis come. Great! We walked slightly nervously down a few dark streets before reaching the main road and followed it safely into town, still relatively relaxed from the baths.
One of the most popular things to do here is hire a bike and visit the nearby waterfalls on the 60k road that winds it way (mainly) downhill. We had read the whole journey was nice but having our recent dose of full on exercise we decided to cover just 6 waterfalls. We think that was around 6k. The bike ride was super pleasant with the changing views of the very green and dense valley. We stopped on numerous occasions along the roadside to
take pictures. It is mainly down a road that you cycle which hugs the curving face of the mountain which meant we had to be careful of cars and trucks.
Many of the bigger waterfalls had activities that you could participate in for $20 or so. Zip-lining down towards a waterfall adopting a superman position for instance. Ha. It was fun to watch but we have zip-lined quite a bit already so did not fancy it at this point.
At one waterfall there was an option to take a petrol powered cable car into the canyon and over the river. Costing around $2 per person each way, it was an easy option for getting closer to this powerful waterfall. With its fierce strength, you could feel it standing 100 meters away, creating a misty spray effect. Rather than cascade at an arch, this waterfall was a straight drop from the top of a mountain to the bottom.
Although we did not make it to the very last one (we were too tired by this point) our favourite was Pailon del Diablo aka the Devils Cauldron. After parking our bikes up we had to descend a forested area
for 15 minutes (which meant a tiring climb back up) walking toward the powerful gushing sounds of water. This waterfall was huge. Very impressive though. With a real forceful energy, it shot out from the top of the mountain forming a pool that must have been very deep given its strength and continued to cascade down various rocks down towards the river below.
One thing we disliked about this waterfall was an approach some of the workers adopted here. Rather than find more sustainable ways to empty rubbish they would just throw their big black bin bags off the bridge into the river. Out of sight out of mind right? Well there certainly were no builds of up rubbish here but elsewhere we cannot say the same.
On our return we jumped in one of the trucks that returned tourists and their bikes back to Baños for a small fee. There must have around 10 of us squashed inside plus our bikes so it was not comfortable at all. During the ride back, P felt another girls eyes on her as we chatted away with some of the other passengers. When got off the truck, the girl approached
P saying she was trying to catch P's eye for the whole ride. Ha. Turns out she lives in Salford, literally just around the corner from P's former workplace. She'd immediately picked up on our accents and knew we must have been local to her. Small world!
The Mancunian (citizens of Manchester) accent has clearly not left us despite meeting a handful of people from all over the world who tell us we don't sound like we're from England. Guess they haven't encountered many people from outside of London. Ha and here's us thinking our accents were no longer as strong as friends and family when we spoke to them on the phone. Travel
: $8.50 from Latacunga to Baños Accommodation
: Plantas y Blancos Hostel Date
Tot: 2.299s; Tpl: 0.066s; cc: 42; qc: 174; dbt: 0.0966s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.9mb