Baños is one of the adrenaline capitals of South America and, as our first stop in Ecuador, we had high hopes for it.
As Baños is situated in a valley surrounded by lush green mountains, there are many waterfalls in the area and a popular activity is to hire bikes and cycle the ‘waterfall trail’, stopping as and when you find one. Our first day in Baños we did this and it was great fun.
When it comes to bikes me and Tim are very different: Tim loves them and, as I’ve discovered while travelling, I hate them. This hatred is even more prominent when I have to ride on roads with large lorries passing by every few minutes which is what this trail entailed at certain points. Moreover, as you’ve probably picked up from previous blog posts, the South Americans cannot drive making it even scarier. However, this trail was 2 hours of downhill and I like waterfalls so I put my fears aside and I really enjoyed it (especially as I didn’t have to pedal!)
We stopped at a number of waterfalls along the way and even came across a zip line which we just had to try. The zip line hung over a deep valley with a river making the view spectacular, especially as Tim and I decided to do it in the ‘Superman’ pose, lying on our tummies looking down. With vultures circling all around us and the sound of Tim squealing (he’s not a fan of heights), we did it and it was a great way to break up our journey!
After a couple of hours we came to the main event: a large waterfall which you can see from all heights thanks to the stairs that climb along side. To get right up to the top you had to get very wet as well as manoeuvre through very small holes in the rock face and, although it had nothing on Iguazu Falls, it was a good way to end the day. Thankfully, there are trucks that wait here to take cyclists back up to Baños so that we can avoid the uphill ride back. A bonus. Upon returning we booked white water rafting for the next day, high on the adrenaline of our first day.
After this promising first day, disaster struck and Tim and I were both hit with pretty bad colds which left us extending our time in Baños in order to lie in bed day after day. We even had to cancel white water rafting which was a massive disappointment. Tim had it worse than I so I managed to get out and about a little and see some of the sights. For one, Baños is overshadowed by the extremely active Tungurahua volcano which consistently smokes and spews lava. The church in the main square is even made from the volcanic rock that hit the city during one of its eruptions. It’s a spectacular sight and pretty daunting to stay near.
Another of the main attractions in Baños are the thermal hot springs, heated by this nearby volcano. Keen to try them out I dragged Tim from his death bed, insisting that the heat would do him good (I’ve since been told that when a person has the chills as Tim did, the last thing you should do is heat them up…clearly I inherited none of my family’s medical genes).
We arrived at 6pm with all the locals, just as the sun was going down. The thermal baths lie under the mountain face, right next to a waterfall and as it got dark coloured lights were turned on all around us. Once you got used to the idea that you were wallowing in the filth of everyone present it was pretty relaxing and the view pretty spectacular. To top it off we were given very fetching swimming hats to wear.
Despite our sickness this was a really enjoyable evening and the perfect people watching opportunity. The people who attend these baths are nearly all locals who visit everyday, believing the baths to have healing powers, and so is a great way to experience their way of life without the tourists present. It is also a must do as these baths formed the town’s name, baños meaning ‘bath’ in Spanish.
The healing power of the thermal baths having worked their magic, the next day Tim and I were able to set off for Ecuador’s capital, Quito. We left eagerly, having spent far too long in Baños but also with a sense of regret. Baños is a great place to visit with vast amounts of activities to choose from and we were unable to make the most of it. These things happen when you travel, however, and the rest simply meant that we were able to make the most of the next place we travelled to.