By: Jas Mitch
Baños- the adventure capital of Ecuador
The original plan for us was to leave Quito and head up to the Quilotoa Lake to hike around the crater of the volcano… Unfortunately as is the case sometimes when traveling, things get in the way of that and due to some unforeseen circumstances we made it to Latacunga but missed the only bus connection to Quilotoa for that day. Latacunga was a totally horrible place so we decided that rather then wait for the bus the next day we would just get on another bus headed for Baños instead.
Baños is a tiny town set in a valley with a beautiful river flowing to one side of the town and to the other, an active volcano!
(Just in case the volcano erupts, these are on all the roads directing you to the evacuation areas…)
A truly beautiful and amazing place.
You don’t even need to leave the town to see its remarkable scenery, there are waterfalls literally on the mountain directly behind the town!
We decided our time was best spent in Baños by getting out in to the wilderness a bit and heading on a hike. We combined this with out desire to head to La Casa Del Arbol, the swing at the end of the world. We had the impression that this would be just a chilled out wander over a bit of a hill… what it Turned out to be was only about 4kms in walking but a gain of almost a vertical km in altitude (!) going over the mountain directly behind Baños. It was pretty hard, mostly due to the altitude! But we made it! And it was worth it!
The first part of the walk was pretty well laid out with stairs as its a popular path for locals going to visit the Statue of the Virgin Mary that overlooks the city
After this point the hike kinda goes a bit more cross country… And vertical! There was no longer stairs, just a not very well worn path through the bushes, with an occasional off shoot to small shacks dotted along the hill side. We didn’t see another person until we reached the top of the mountain and there was a farmer tending a paddock… And a cow…
After a fair bit of hiking (and a bit of getting lost!) we were pretty excited to finally see La Casa Del Arbol in the distance! And even more excited when we finally arrived!
La Casa Del Arbol is a treehouse and small, simple cafe set up on the top of the mountain affording the most incredible views of the surrounding scenery.
We chilled out for a bit and grabed a coffee/beer and took it all in.
Then it was our turn on the swing! So amazing! You really do feel like there is nothing below you!
We were enjoying ourselves so much we missed the bus back to town by 10 mins… and had to begin the wander back. Unfortunately you can’t come back the way you came, its simply too steep, so we had to follow the road, which is a much longer way of getting back to Baños. This was going to take ages…Thankfully after only an hour or so of walking a taxi eventually came along and picked us up and took us back to town for not very much money… And it was a long way away!
Our next few days were… interesting… Mitch got pretty sick and spent a few days recovering and Baños embraced the three day celebration that is Day of the Dead (Halloween). It was pretty crazy stuff… actually it was more just noisy than anything! We had seen the preparations taking place since we arrived in Banos but on 31st October the town went into overdrive!
Starting at about 6am there was a full band in the back of a ute driving around the streets playing music.
This did not stop for 24hours. And this turned into many bands, walking and driving, stopping out the front of houses, all day and night. People joined in and followed the bands. Some of them had groups of dances. It was pretty cool… And now I kind of miss the constant sound of music…
The locals had things going on all over the place… They were at the graveyard all day and night with celebrations and fireworks, there was church services at the large cathedral in the centre of town, and they had a massive party outside the church in the town square…
This was the first time we had had to deal with a lack of accommodation on our travels. The town (and most places in Ecuador) were almost at capacity with people travelling from all around for the celebrations. It was pretty crazy! And accommodation was ridiculously expensive as well!
The last day we spent in Baños we were going to mountain bike down to the waterfall known as the Devils Cauldron. But with Mitch being sick we thought it best to just go with a tour group instead. The waterfall was pretty cool but with all the extra people around for the holiday it was crazy busy! There were lines just to get down the stairs to the viewing areas… And I’m calling it - worst tour of the entire trip! The “bus” we were on was jammed packed… That’s fine… But what was not cool was the heavy base dance music that was blared the entire time we were on the bus… Omg horrible! Every bus we passed looked like that were hating it as much as we were …