Posted by: robinson2000 | February 18, 2011

Banos and Beyond!

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12th-18th February – We sadly left the beautiful surroundings of Cotopaxi feeling suitably rested and thoroughly out of touch with civilisation due to the lack of any TV, newspaper or internet connection within 50 miles. We said goodbye to the kind and helpful volunteers that ran the hostel and caught a taxi down to the nearest town Machachi. From Machachi we jumped on a bus travelling South on the Pan-American Highway where Spice and Rice picked up two had comfortable seats but I was left standing in the aisle on my own with a small girl huddled between my legs throwing up into a bag. The joys of backpacking! After an hour or so we arrived in the non-descript town of Ambato and were told we had to travel across town to the Eastern bus terminal in order to catch another bus to our chosen destination. After a very short taxi ride across Ambato for $2 and listening to the cab driver laughing hysterically into his mobile to his mate, (probably because he was massively ripping us off) we caught another bus to Banos. The bus ride was its usual dull self where you pretend you were somewhere else but we were entertained by the ”Del Boy” style salesman who had hopped on and opened up his briefcase to reveal a multitude of crappy items in which he was attempting to flog to anyone that would listen.

We eventually arrived in Banos and were greeted with a small bustling town, bursting at the seams with hotels, restaurants and tour agencies. Banos is situated between the Rio Pastaza and the Tungurahua volcano and attracts many Ecuadorians and foreigners to its hot springs and numerous waterfalls found near the town. Unfortunately the 5000 meter volcano is closed to climbers due to its level of volcanic activity which was erupting as recently as January 2011! There are however a couple of cowboy run agencies that offer trekking tours up to the crater but the chances of being hit by a flying volcanic bomb are very high. Helpfully the authorities have painted arrows on all the roads marking the evacuation route should the town be battered by the volcano.

After grabbing our backpacks from the bus we walked into town and found a well run hostel just off the main plaza called Plantas y Blanco. $9 each per night for a three bed room wasn’t too bad and the hostel had free internet. I checked my emails first of all and found an interesting link sent by my Dad of an Englishman who travelled to Cotopaxi (where we’d just been) in 2002 and had been shot at by bandits whilst driving to one of the areas numerous volcanos. The four bandits were carrying a terrifying arsenal of weapons ranging from a machete to a shotgun and ambushed their 4×4 along a desolate road. The driver was beaten round the head with a pistol and it was only down to some quick thinking that they managed to escape with their lives. Still Cotopaxi is a fantastic area to visit so long as you have a crack SAS unit on hand to assist you if you happen to meet four heavily armed men. If you want to hear the full tale then here’s the link and the story picks up 10 minutes in. 

www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00y4cjd/Saturday_Live_05_02_2011/

After the arduous travel to Banos we spent the afternoon pottering about town and for dinner we treated ourselves to a whole guinea pig complete with paws, claws and teeth. Just what Rice needed as he slowly recovered from his stomach parasite. That evening we hit the towns bars, sampled many cocktails and salsa danced with some Ecuadorian women till the wee hours.

Our time in Banos was spent doing a range of activities that were offered at pretty reasonable prices. The first one was a canyoning adventure that entailed abseiling down three waterfalls, the final one being a 40 meter monster. It was brilliant but buttock clenching and terrifying (especially for Spicer who hates wet rocks) as you had to lower yourself over the edge of an overhang as water pours over you. It got to the point when the rock face was too far away for your feet to reach and you just had to control free fall down to the slippery rock face below. As I neared the bottom I realised that the rope ran out about a metre from the ground so you were left to splatter down onto the mossy rocks and hope for the best.  

On our third day in Banos we hired two giant go-kart looking buggy’s that wouldn´t appear out of place in a Mad Max film. We drove them alongside the crystalline green waters of Rio Verde to several waterfalls that were cascading from the surrounding mountains. The most spectacular waterfall was called El Pailon del Diablo (the Devil´s Cauldron) which was a monster of a waterfall that plunged a huge distance down into a rocky ravine. Whilst on the route dare devil Rice did a bridge jump which essentially means throwing yourself off a 40 metre bridge attached to a rope and swinging precariously above a raging river (see travellingdoc.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/a-relaxing-warm-banos/ for more details).

On our final day we hired mountain bikes to explore more of the valley and to add Ecuador to the growing list of countries cycled in. We also managed to fit in a 4 hour hike up to the statue of the Virgin that overlooks Banos, and on clear days you can see the huge volcano that looms over the town. Unfortunately it was shrouded in clouds that day. In between all of these activities we paid a couple of visits to the outdoor El Salado thermal baths, watched Tottenham defeat AC Milan, Arsenal beat the mighty Barcelona and eat out in lots of nice restaurants, our favourite being a Swiss Bistro (www.swiss-bistro.com) that served the most amazing soup and goulash.

Banos has been an excellent place to spend the week but we must move on and begin our journey down to the Peruvian border which entails spending 20 plus hours on buses in the next couple of days. Can´t wait!

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Responses

  1. Hi Ben, good to hear your voice the other day on Skype. I expect you’re still on the buses atm! Sounds fun! But nothing compared to the “96” bus to Bexleyheath
    :{
    Banos sounded marvellous, Ecuador scores 🙂 Love Carolyn & Colin.

    • Hi Carolyn
      Yes shame about the connection. I tried again the following day and had a pretty clear & long conversation with Mum & Dad so its a bit of pot luck. We are in the middle of a long journey into Peru. We just got off a 5 hr bus journey and we´re about to pick up a night bus at 11pm into Peru. One we arrive in the morning we then pick up another 7 hr bus to a nice coastal resort. Hopefully all the travelling will be worth it. Glad you enjoyed your holiday and i´ll check out the photo´s when i´m back home.
      Take care.
      Love Ben
      xxx


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