Dubbed Ecuador’s “adventure capital”, a short drive to Baños offered innumerable opportunities for exploration, extreme sports, and spontaneity.
One of Ecuador’s “must see” places is the small town of Baños (officially Baños de Aguas Santas). A mere 3 hours from Quito, the city received its name for it’s thermal baths located around the city, an attraction that I will certainly visit on my next trip. The thermal springs are heated from the geothermic activity of Tungurahua volcano. This volcano has been erupting since 1999, so lucky visitors can see volcanic ash spew from the crater by day, and by night often times lava is visible. The popularity of the area has come from the extreme sports offered and the many large waterfalls, many of which can be seen from town.
Despite a somewhat paralyzing fear of heights, I ventured to Baños to repel down waterfalls (known as canyoning). Not knowing what to expect, we headed out of town in wetsuits and repelling gear. We climbed a hill to encounter our first waterfall. As usual, the first waterfall was the scariest, although it was the smallest. I went near to the end, watching everyone else slowly creep down the steep rock and get soaked by the cascade. When it was my turn, I abandoned my fear about halfway down and accepted it as a brilliant challenge. Who says you can’t overcome your fears?
We repelled down 5 cascades, the largest being a 78-foot waterfall at a near 90-degree angle. Taking a moment to stop halfway down this waterfall I was completely awestruck. Looking up, we were in the absolute middle of nowhere with no signs of human life. The jungle stretched on in every direction, including upwards. The water fell lightly beside me in the most serene environment. This experience was more than just an adrenaline rush. It was a rare connection with nature.
After such an experience we enjoyed some good coffee before heading to La Casa del Arbol, or the treehouse. We wound our way up the mountain/volcano to treehouse, which was made famous from websites such as Pinterest, for a great photo opportunity. There is a swing, rightly called “the swing off the end of the world”. Based on camera angles it looks like you are swinging off a cliff, and you sort of are!
Baños also has a colorful nightlife. We started a night out with a night “chiva”. Chivas are basically open-air busses. We took the Chiva to the top of the volcano. On a clear night you can see the lava from Tungurahua. Unfortunately it was rainy, but we had a perfect view of the town’s lights, and were treated to a classic Ecuadorian drink “canelazo” which is a hot drink made from sugar, cinnamon, naranjilla juice, perhaps a few more fruit juices, and alcohol. I love the drink because it reminds me of apple cider and thus of home.
The hostel that we stayed at offered a lovely breakfast on the terrace with a remarkable view of a few waterfalls. Kirst and I decided to take it easy on Sunday and get home before dark. Before we left, we pampered ourselves (because we deserve it!) with a $20 hour-long massage. I am sure this was not the best massage ever, but it was my first massage ever, and relaxed me for the coming week.
I am so excited to revisit Baños! I am already planning another trip, this time to paraglide, jump off a bridge, white water raft, or simply enjoy the thermal springs—the opportunities are limitless!