The bus ride in was glorious. The sun was shinning and verdant hills became ever steeper. It was nice to see the color green again after a few weeks in the sun dried Andes. It was truly warm too, not like in the mountains where a cloud could drop the temperature twenty degrees and let’s not talk about the Andean wind. Once we got our room, we quickly changed to our sandals that we hadn’t worn since Quito and for the first time we actually wished we’d packed shorts. The setting was beautiful with lush hills rising nearly vertically but what surprised us was some of the architecture. Don’t get me wrong, Baños is no colonial masterpiece but there was a gorgeous church in the main square and the courtyard of a nearby convent was even more enthralling. There were lots of different places to eat and a plethora of pubs. I was beside myself; it was just nice to be walking around in a tourist town. After all, we were on vacation, right?
Unfortunately, my adventurous eating nature caught up with me in Baños. The day before at the Saquisilí market I tried an unusual drink that some old local ladies were enjoying. It was quite a concoction and not a typical one I’d had many times over. Luckily, my wife only had a small sip of mine but I’d gulped the whole thing down and now I was feeling the effects of it. The trip had been a resounding success on that front despite my trying lots of strange things I’d not gotten sick once. We went back to rest in our room but I managed to go out for a romantic Italian dinner that night though we never made it to a pub. The next day we did the hot baths but after that I was in the mood for a nap, a highly unusual state for me. We went back to our room and I got under the covers. It was a comfortable bed and the room was warm and cozy. I had a hot shower waiting for me when I cared to have one. I started to nod out but not before thinking to myself; how nice it was to be in a tourist town. How nice it was to be in Baños.
Fondest memory: I’d only been in Ecuador about three weeks and already I was heading out of the mountains, the main reason I’d wanted come to the country in the first place. To be fair, the weather had pushed me ahead of schedule but I couldn’t help but feel a bit of remorse as I lost elevation with each mile towards Baños. Things had been a relative success. While I didn’t get to completely circumnavigate Cotopaxi, my wife was more than a good sport in walking around the awe inspiring volcano for four days, camping out in remote locations with no human contact. We’d tried to summit Ilinizas Norte but an ice storm and impenetrable fog had put an end to that. We had also spent a week in the Andes going from village to village via local bus and one knee-bracing descent on foot. Sure, I had a few more hikes up my sleeves but it seemed the Andean summer was over and that poor visibility would be the order of the day in the high mountains. Despite my personal preconception that Baños was a tourist town I’d rather miss, we’d heard nothing but raves from both fellow travelers and Ecuadorians about it so we decided to bite the bullet and lose the acclimatization we’d spent weeks building up. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Baños is a small town of 16.000 people, but over 50 hotels. This shows how popular Baños is. The town is quite touristy, and many signs are in English.
The town is known for its many thermal baths. One of them Piscina de La Virgen is places just under the waterfall at the picture. Some of the pools have really hot water, over 50 degrees C. These are not for swimming, but just for soaking, or a brief stay just to say you did it. In fact I say a crazy guy first jumping in the hot water, and then into the freezing cold pool, and back again several times.
The surroundings offer some great hikes in the green hills. On every corner of the town agencies offer different trips, ex. Horseback riding, whitewater rafting, mountain biking and jungle trips.
There is also a small zoo just outside town. It is not that great an experience, but they do exhibit some Ecuadorian animals. I found the walk there more exiting, and the views to the river deep in a gorge are fantastic.
The bus ride from Quito to Banos takes you through the "Avenue of The Volcanos".
This is a must do bus ride. For photographers it is definitely a must .
There are over 40 volcanoes in Ecuador of which 8 are active.
These are big volcanoes most rising to over 5000 m . To match their size they have big names : Cotopaxi , Tungurahus , Chimborazo
If you get your hands on a book entitled
"Ecuador - Island of the Andes " by Kevin Kling you will see photos that are captivating to say the least .
The book can be sourced on Amazon.com but they list it as " Limited Availabilty ".
The mountain stream comes from the volcano Tungurahua just over the ridge .
The water is hot and supposed to be theraputic and there is a swimming pool.
I am not sure the water was theraputic but it was hot.
Favorite thing: You will notice these guys stretching big hunks of taffy on the sidewalks of Banos. This is a Banos specialty, and I must admit..pretty good. I'm just not sure how I feel about it being pulled by bare hands.
Favorite thing: Banos is essentially a tourist town , for Ecuadorians and non-Ecuadorians . It is also a staging area for trips into teh Amazon jungle to the east .
In small cabins, or in bigger "tiendas", every place is made for youuuuu !
Dans des petits cabanons ou dans des plus grosses "tiendas", tout est fait pour vous !
Favorite thing: As in most places in Ecuador, kids selling candy and gum seek you out. They are always cute, and you can't help but buy a bit of candy from them. They have that sad face look down to an art.
Favorite thing: This is not our photo. Tungurahua has been active since 2000 . It was not active when we were there , This is a big brooding volcano ,
Favorite thing: Some nice art adorns the side of building in Banos. Look out for some interesting stuff as you walk around town.
Favorite thing: If you're lucky, you might catch a wedding while strolling by the church one night. Stick around and watch, nobody seems to mind at all.