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Published: July 22nd 2009
It was always going to take a while for the high of the Galapagos to fade. However, given that Lucy only had a few days left we figured that a couple of days in and around the spa town of Baños would be a great way to spend that time. Thanks to Lucy we didn't have to slum it in a hostel.....no way....thanks to Lucy's generosity we got to stay in a very exclusive spa resort, with its own pools that overlooked the town of Baños. We had three days in Baños and there is plenty to do to keep you occupied. We divided up our days as follows....Day 1 - make the most of the Spa facilities...relax! Day 2 - Jungle Trip and Day 3 - Canyoning....a bit of an adrenaline rush to finish off the visit.
We arrived at the resort, checked in and then checked out the facilities including lunch in their Cafe del Cielo (Cafe in the Clouds).....lovely! Thankfully the clouds obliged by dissipating and giving us a spectacular view of the valley and hills. We decided that given most of the day was done best thing to do would be to walk into
town (1000m vertically downhill from where we were staying) and organise some things to do for the next couple of days. The walk was quite exciting in parts, being rather steep and a bit slippy, although it was obviously much better than the walk back up! We passed quite a few locals who were not put off by this and cheerfully made their way up, kids in tow as well, with enough breath to say hello. One guy even ran up past us and then back down before we’d made it to the bottom (some people are just masochists!). We looked around Baños and organised activities for the next two days before heading back up to the resort for dinner and the Spa.......something nice about lying around in a thermal bath at about 9pm on a reasonably cloudless night with views of the city below! AND...to top it off the clouds around the volcano parted and we were treated to Volcan Tungurahua's fiery display! From our vantage point, a reasonably safe distance down the slope we could see the fiery ash which was bubbling forth from the crater. Lovely way to spend an evening!
This was our
jungle trek, canoe ride, sightseeing and monkey cuddling day. The tour company picked us up from the hotel. Our guide was a really nice guy who spoke pretty good English on account of the fact that he taught secondary school English in Ecuador and just guided in his spare time. We asked him what secondary school English involved and he replied, well you know "My name is Gordon"; "I live in Baños" etc......a little like secondary school language class in Australia! The first part of the day was a the drive from Baños to Puyo. It’s a long winding road with spectacular views of the mountains, valley and waterfalls etc. The road is one which is often cycled by tourists. We opted not to, mainly on account of the fact that it is not all downhill and Gordon refuses to accept that bicycles are made for going up as well as downhill. Ever since La Paz and our fabulous experience on the death road he insists that cycling up hill is not an option!
Not long into the journey we stopped and took a ride in a luxury Zip Line across the river canyon to view a spectacular 80ft
waterfall. Ann and Lucy had a go on the local tyre swing (it was even more exciting than when we were 10) before reaching the viewing platform.
After stopping for a few times for the obligatory tourist photo opportunity and by-passing (and passing up on!) a bungy jump opportunity, we arrived in Puyo. Here were given the choice to either head straight to the jungle or first visit the Monkey Sanctuary. We had heard about the Monkey Sanctuary from some people we’d met during out visit to the Quilatoa Loop and they said it was a "must do" in Puyo, even though it was not on the typical tourist route (i.e. it hasn’t yet made the Lonely Planet Guide). With the memories of Santa Marta animal refuges still fresh in our minds and keen to show Wendy and Lucy just how nice monkeys are we chose the monkey first option.
The centre was set up by a Swiss Woman as a refuge for monkeys rescued from being pets or to be sold as part of the trade in animals. Unlike Santa Marta there are no cages for the monkeys and they roam free which is rather nice. The centre
had capuchin monkeys, woolly monkeys, spider monkeys and squirrel monkeys, as well as a few other animals. We arrived and were immediately greeted by a spider monkey coming towards us. These guys are rather big, with long arms and big hands. The spider monkey went straight up to Ann, took her by the hand (and tail round the are!) and led her into the refuge centre....lovely greeting! Of course not all was as it seemed, whilst Ann was quite taken with the spider monkey welcome a capuchin monkey went through pockets and managed to extract a tissue....no money though! We think these guys have a little scam going. We spent the next hour playing with the little fella’s, letting them jump all over us, pull our hair, stick fingers in our nose and many other lovely things (some people must look like a toilet!)! Whilst at the same time giving them a much needed cuddle or much entertainment. One girl there obviously hadn’t read the guidelines and lost her bus money to the cunning capuchin (who was sat in the corner counting it!) whilst being molested by another due to fact that her low cut top gave him plenty of
scope to stick it hand down and have a grope! (see monkeys are just men without the social conditioning). These guys are never going back into the wild, mainly because they are too habituated to humans and would never survive, so the Tourist visits and mutually beneficial. Tourists get to experience monkeys up close and personal (very personal in some cases, as above!....) and the monkeys get some love, affection and entertainment. It really is like being in a primary school playground! including screams, tantrums and fights (this was not us honestly).
All good things must end and it was with some reluctance that we said goodbye to our furry friends. Ann had a hard time extracting the 4 or 5 monkeys which she had hanging off her. From the Monkey Refuge we continued on to lunch, a quick visit to a local community (where we did our bit and bought some bowls and jewellery - Gordon got a lovely necklace :o) ) and then our canoe trip. By this stage the heavens had opened and it was pelting it down. Thankfully we were issued with ponchos and we spent an uneventful 40mins in the canoe as it was
steered down the fast swelling Puyo River. Despite the odd wobble, accompanied by the obligatory scream, we managed to make it to our stepping off point for the final part of our activity for the day, a jungle walk with the option of a swim under a waterfall......not exactly all that inspiring given the weather! The walk though got off to a wonderful start......some 5 minutes in and our guide pointed out a stick insect......how he saw it we’re not too sure because it looked like a stick to us! Then low and behold about 10m down the path we came across a snake! Now in all our jungle treks today we haven’t really seen a snake without is scuttling off into the jungle before we could whip out a camera. This guy though perched himself nicely in the branches of a tree just off the trail and proceeded to pop his head out so we could get a couple of pics. We still haven’t been able to identify the snake at this stage and our guides weren’t too sure if it was a poisonous or not.
The jungle trek continued and after crossing a few streams and climbing
up the odd mound we managed to get to our destination - the waterfall. It was pretty spectacular and the volume of water was awesome! Lucy and Gordon managed to walk around the pool and were blown away by the air coming off the waterfall....and were also soaked by the spray - no need for a dip!. On our way back we also got to see a water tarantula (sitting under a log - the guide had amazing eyesight!). All in all the hike was a good one, especially because of the lack of mosquitoes.
Day 3 was our action and adrenalin day. We were doing canyoning! What is canyoning? Well pictures can tell a story, but in short is rappelling down waterfalls! We did a 3 rappel option, which involved a basic 10m rappel; a 15m rappel with a drop into a small pool; and for last a 45m rappel, including a long freefall drop! Adrenalin yes! All of us approached the first one with some intrepidation (mostly due to the lack of safety line!! Obviously health an safety only comes into play after 20mtrs in Equador). We were slightly more relaxed on the second,
but the last.......well lets just say everyone doing it was quite intimidated by this one. To describe it....first you had a 3mtrs rappel down to a rocky ledge. At this point you were unstrapped from the first rappel and then strapped into the second.....from there it was about 2mtrs down a 90 degree rock face (you couldn’t see a thing until you backed yourself over) and then a free rappel (i.e. no rock to bounce off) through the waterfall, into a pool some 40mtrs below.......a definite rush!
After this we hightailed back to Quito as Lucy was flying home to London the next day.
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