The kind fella at the hostel in Cotopaxi dropped us off at the highway and waited with us until the bus to Baños arrived. We’re kinda pro bus travellers now so it wasn’t entirely necessary but was very much appreciated.
Baños de Agua Santa, to give it it’s full name, is a small town known for it’s hot springs, and nowadays, adventure stuff for tourists. From Cotopaxi it’s only a couple of hours through winding mountains so before we knew it we were there. Cloudy weather has been a theme for a while now and Baños is no exception, but unlike Cotopaxi there was some relief and we did see the sky every now and then.
We arrived at the hostel, dropped off our bags, and… viewpoint!! The lady at the hostel gave us a map which suggested a relatively short walk to a statue of the Virgin Mary, so off we walked.
Before we’d even arrived at the steps we met a dog, Sixto IV (we’ve been naming dogs after our guide from the Lost City, not sure why)…
Dogs in South America (and Central America, and some of Asia, and probably other places) – Dogs in some parts of the world are kept as pets but also roam the streets. Sometimes they roam the streets solo and sometimes they’re still pets. It’s pretty sad and I assume it’s just because dogs are bought, not wanted, and let go. And because money isn’t spent on lessening the number of dogs on the street there are loads just wondering around. Some seem to do alright for themselves, other less so, but either way it’s far from the best thing in the world for the dogs.
Dogs sometimes latch onto you for company and just hang out until they’re bored which, to be fair, is pretty brilliant. Most are very friendly and very relaxed, just looking for a little company and maybe some food.
Sixto IV was a little skinny but had plenty of energy (he also had a gammy willy permanently in the “on” position, which is awful for him, so very awful… but he was making the best of a bad situation).
The walk was much tougher than one of us had hoped, but we climbed, and our friend climbed with us.
When we got to the top we were greeted with top notch views of Baños and some of the places we would be spending the next few days. There was also a statue of The Virgin Mary sitting in a chair…
The statue of Mary, Mother of Christ, was slightly odd. It’s an alright statue but you can’t really see if from the viewpoint, and you can really see it from many points in the town. I’m sure she watches of the town and protects it, or something like that.
There was a small wooden sign that read “Bar” a little further up. I took a walk but still have no idea if it was a bar. There where makeshift tables outside, but otherwise it just seemed like a family home. I said hello to a small girl and then asked a man if the bar was here. He laughed and said “No”, he then said other words which included “beer” and “sorry”. So… Maybe he didn’t get his shipment of beer, of maybe it was just his home and the translation was “mate, does it look like I sell beer? Do I look like a barman? I’m sorry you were ever born”? His smile suggested that wasn’t the translation, but you never know.
(I’d love to somehow replay the conversations I’ve had with Spanish speakers since we got here. It would be good to know just what I’ve been agreeing with)
After no beer but a nice view we, with our new friend by our side, walked back down the steps and found a small park outside the hospital which excitingly contained avocado trees in the park. We took a seat to recover from the walk…
After a few minutes Emma got way more than she bargained for, the wind blew and a great big avocado hit the bench centimeters from where she was sitting.
To be fair if it hit her on the head it could have done pretty serious damage, but it didn’t so we can laugh about it!
Little Sixto IV was still hanging with us so I peeled the avo and he chow’d down.
(The sign says something like “Don’t harm the plants” but makes no mention of plants doing harm to us… LOLZ)
Next day we went zip lining, which was a lot of fun!
We also went to a coffee shop with books and arts and things. I contemplated the arts and things, while Em drank coffee.
Having not found quite enough exhilaration in the zip lining, me and my adrenaline junkie girlfriend thought we should take on the big swing on the mountain. There is a famous swing in Baños attached to a treehouse, which looks good and everything, but this one looked a bit more full-on. It wasn’t super clear how to get there but we saw a path on maps.me which seems to go there so we got a bus heading to the classic swing and got off a bit early. The walk was through a few quiet villages, then through a few very small dirt paths, then we saw it, the swing very much on top of a pretty massive hill. I assured Em that it wasn’t the swing we were heading to and that we’d have a nice easy walk the rest of the way. The walkway kept winding and the incline became more and more steep. This was a tough climb, as steep as anything we faced on the Lost City trek, but the swing closes soon so no time to wallow in poor choices! We got there with plenty of time to spare but Em had given everything she had getting there and didn’t want her heart to “literally explode” so we gave this one a miss.
We woke up Monday to one of the wettest mornings we’ve seen in South America so started to reconsider our planned bike ride to see a load of waterfalls. We had breakfast and eventually decided not to put it off until mañana so we plucked up some courage, and donned the finest waterproof gear Decathlon has to offer. We hired a couple of be best mountain bikes Ecuador has to offer, the guy at the hire shop gave us the crappy-ist map he had to offer, and pointed us in the right direction.
Ruta de las Cascadas, or Route of the Waterfalls, is a route with a load of waterfalls on it, for which cycling is pretty well suited. It’s mostly downhill (that was a requirement for one of us) and you can get a truck to give you a lift back home.
The last waterfalls we saw were in Minca and a bit underwhelming but these didn’t disappoint. No swimming (because it was freezing) but it was great to see to see a crap ton of water falling from various rocks. Awesome!
Oh and this is a rock that looks like a monkey…
Here’s a waterfall
This is a waterfall
We took a cable car to see this waterfall
This one had a rainbow.
We rode some more
And Em saw a plant she liked (she gets excited when it’s a plant that would usually be grown indoors at home, so maybe it’s one of those)
Finally we arrived at Cascada El Pailón del Diablo
The word epic is obviously horrible, but it was pretty epic. The shear scale and quantity of water falling was amazing, and being that close you could really feel everything.
It was a bit wet, and there was a cool bridge
We threw our bikes in the last truck back to town and dropped them back at the hire shop.
There was a 6ish year old girl manning the desk (this isn’t super uncommon) heavily engrossed in cartoons who couldn’t really care any less that we were returning our bike so we waited for a little for someone to give our bikes to.
Our last day in Baños we experience what Baños is known for. A weird, warm, yellow swimming pool.
The hot springs were a nice, if icky, way to spend the morning.
We heard somewhere that pancakes and a massage are the best accompaniment to a morning in the hot springs, and who are we to argue with something I just made us? So after pancakes we paid a couple of women to touch our bodies and lay hot stones on us while we both pretended to relax for an hour or so. It was very nice after the bike ride the day before.
One last job before heading off… Ecuador is on the equator, so even when it’s not all that hot or sunny you can still get sunburn, which is a bit annoying. As a man of advancing years it’s easy to forget the newly exposed area of skin on the very top of my head. After a few cases of sunburn Emma insisted I wear a hat… So I wear a hat now… I don’t like my hat, so I bought an ice-cream
It helped a bit… When I want to look youthful I wear it as above, when I want to look older (to buy whiskey and cigars, for example) I spin it around 180 degrees. It’s versatile and in fairness it has also done a great job of protecting my head from the sun. Overall, money well spent!