Alive and happy after Danny’s second attempt on the river, and after overcoming the worst of my stomach bug, we took a very bumpy ride through the jungle back into the mountains to get to Banos. A lovely mountain town, famous really for its hot springs, but also a number of adventure activities from mountain biking to whitewater. Advised against kayaking in the nearby rivers due to pollution, and after seeing the “mountain bike” path (the curvy, heavily traveled mountain road), we decided to just spend some time relaxing.
Heading to the hot springs our first night, we were shocked to find them crowded, no, really they were overflowing with people. Packed in like sardines into two small pools cut into the mountain the setting was relaxing but the atmosphere was anything but. Turns out the hot springs are extremely popular at night and after about 10 minutes we couldn’t take the crush of people any more and headed back to the hostel for dinner.
Taking it easy, we spent the next day hiking through the mountains (really easy at 2000m in altitude!) from view point to view point. After about 3km, we came across a beautiful cafe high above the city. Accessible only by foot or mule, cafe de cielo was part of a luxury spa and resort complex. Very affordable, just not on a backpackers budget, we sprung for two hot chocolates instead. Continuing on our path, we climbed through cow pastures and farm land before reaching the highest viewpoint. Thwarted by clouds, we could only see the bottom third of the volcano.
Heading down to a viewpoint overlooking the city, we came across a shaking tree. Giggles from the tree tipped us off to the children inside before they offered us some fruit. Asking their names and sharing ours, Danny inquired as to what they were playing. We are monkeys they replied in laughter and you are a cow. Not processing what they said, Danny smiled. They called you a cow, I said to him. What? Danny said as he turned to the children. They erupted in laughter and we continued up the path.
Banos was relaxing and delicious. Apart from finding real pizza, we also found the first Ecuadorian chocolate bar that we liked. Unsatisfied with just one bar, we bought four to last us until Lima where hopefully we can restock. Although our packs might be small, somethings are just that important. 🙂
With Banos, our time in Ecuador had come to a close. Instead of 9 days we could have spent 90. This is a country just filled with outdoor activities and culture to go with it. Although we got some river time in and the all important equator, there is a lot we didn’t get to do in Ecuador like biking to indigenous villages or visiting the pacific coast at all.
The big thing we really missed out on was the the Galapagos. We had hoped to find a last minute deal while in Quito but the last minute deals were virtually non-existent because it is the middle of high season…which corresponds to the U.S. school year. Given the timing and the cost we figure that we can book a Galapagos trip sometime during their low season and fly from the USA for cheaper than we could do the trip for now. Since it is so close to the US we’d rather save our “big-ticket” money for things that are farther away and more difficult to return to….like Antarctica!