Baños is Ecuador’s capital of extreme sports, sugarcane taffy, and, as it seems, pizza restaurants. We spent a couple of days in the little town to get our adrenalin pumping with canyoning (that is: rappelling down waterfalls) and try out their famous thermal baths (hence the name Baños).
The former we found on one of the many adventure sports agencies around town that offer more or less the same services for more or less the same prices. We chose MTS Adventure because they were at the top of Tripadvisor and would give us photos and videos of the adventure. We were not disappointed as we got our own, personal guide who took us up into the jungle where we found some nice, steep, and a bit scary waterfalls to rappel. We got wet and our hearts pumping from the adrenaline, and we had a great time. Mathias chose to walk face-down the last waterfall “Rambo style”, just to show how much of a man he is..
We’ve visited thermals baths before in Colombia (San Vicente), but the baths in Baños were very different. This was a really social thing for the locals and it seemed that half the town had come to enjoy the hot waters in the pools that were the size of a medium sized living room. “Sild i tønne” (sardines in a barrel?) describes it pretty well and we really got to know the locals in more than one way.
The extreme sports didn’t stop in Baños, as bus trips in Ecuador can be both a beautiful adventure and a near-death experience. While in Baños we saw a news report about the road accidents being the number one cause of death in Ecuador, and buses being a major part of those accidents due to tired drivers, old buses, alcohol and general risktaking. We decided to do no more night buses as those are the most dangerous, but our bus trip to Cuenca in thick fog was almost as bad. Our busdriver would drive by trucks in the fog (we could only see about 10 m) in a turn with double lines, only just making it before a couple of cars were coming in the opposite direction. We (at least Tuva) feared for our lives as we had a front row experience to the madness!
Other than the hazardous driving, bus trips in Ecuador is an interesting experience as you drive through the beautiful countryside and see mighty mountains, Llamas and other animals on the roadside, and the daily life of the indigenous people whisking by. We were continuously stunned by the scenery unfolding as we made our way south. Just getting on and off the bus is an experience as you often get hushed in just as the bus is leaving the station and often have to get on/off in speed. The buses all cost about 1-1,5$ per hour and are reasonably comfortable.
Our final stop in Ecuador was Cuenca, a larger city and the richest in the country. Many foreigners live here and it is a picturesque city with its colonial buildings and narrow streets. We didn’t stay long, so we really only had time for a city bus tour which allowed us to see all the sights in just a couple of hours. All in all Ecuador has been a beautiful and interesting country ranging from Galapagos (which really isn’t similar to the rest of Ecuador at all) to the Andean mountains and the bigger cities with its old towns. We could definitely see ourselves coming back and spending more time here.
All photos from Ecuador can be found here.