As it turned out, we both needed a strong stomach to handle our time in Baños, and not just for the hair-raising activities that were offered on every corner.
After about two months of traveling in South America, we felt we were doing fairly well with all the food and water. While we watched what we ate, and used our Steripen to sterilize all our water, we should have known better than to get too confident, because it all quickly turned around in Baños.
Kristen was first to be struck by the effects of bad food, and no, it wasn’t from a street food vendor. It was actually from a real restaurant, and it was a “gringo” restaurant that would have been considered expensive by Ecuadorian standards. It turned in to a day of down time, where we just hung around at the hostel and waited for Kristen to feel better. Luckily, she felt improved enough (she put it at 85%), and the following day to we able to get out and about.
However, after just two days of relative health, Joe didn’t want Kristen getting all that sympathy, and he fell ill too. It took poor Joe took a couple of days (and a couple of antibiotics), until he felt completely improved.
The positive side of all this illness down time: we both got some good rest, we saved a ton of money by not really eating (Sprite and saltines are cheap), and both probably lost a little weight as well!
Despite on and off bouts of illness, we still managed to get out, see the sights, and have some fun.
Doing what we could while we both felt well, we rented “buggies” (pronounced here like “boogies”) with some new friends, and we all braved the Ecuadorean roads on the “Ruta de las Cascadas.” The buggies seemed somewhat underpowered and a little too low profile to be legal, but our theory is, when in Ecuador, do everything that they would never let you do in The States.
The road twists through tunnels, over bridges, and along steep ravines, all while revealing many breathtaking waterfalls. The cars that travel this route are very used to these buggies, and although they gave us plenty of room as they passed, it was still a bit unnerving to witness it in progress.
We stopped at a few of the waterfalls to hike around and take far too many pictures.
At the next waterfall, we were able to stand right behind it (after shimmying through a narrow cave), but in doing so, we got totally drenched. It was an amazingly powerful waterfall, and it was a bit intimidating standing so close.
Also along the route they offered many different “extreme” activities, and Joe had to check out the “Superman” zip-line. He has tried out a few different zip lines in his 30 years, but this was the first time he was allowed to zip in Superman style. Not sure if it was the relaxed regulations in Ecuador or just their carefree attitudes, but he instantly jumped at the chance.
This was truly an exhilarating zip line as it passed over a deep valley and headed towards two waterfalls.
After all the heart pumping excitement of the day, we decided to give our weary bones a nice treat by visiting one of the natural thermal pools. FYI: these natural hot springs are found all around town, and this is where the town gets its name, Baños del Agua Santa. It seemed like the entire town had the same idea as we did, as the place was simply jammed packed.
We first took a dip in the pool that was less crowded and we quickly found out why there were fewer people in this pool. It turns out that this pool was a cool 118 degrees, which felt like the same temperature you would cook lobster at. Shortly after getting in, we both looked very lobster-like, and we decided to join the huge crowd in the much more comfortable pool.
It was a beautiful night under the stars, and we enjoyed the sitting in the warm water and chatting with a few locals.
One day, we decided to try a little relaxing event known as canyoning. The idea of canyoning is pretty simple- you basically have to do whatever it takes to make it down and through a canyon. This involved rappelling down waterfalls, forging rivers, and sliding over rock faces.
The water was pretty cold so we were given wetsuits, coats, and sliding cover for your bum.
We were given a very good briefing by our guides before heading down our first waterfall. The guides made you responsible for hooking up your harness before taking the plunge, which was a bit nerve-racking at first. Don’t worry, our guides were great, and they always double checked it before letting us go.
We had a blast making our way down the different falls and even got to slide down a small fall at the end. We felt like quite the adventurers, and luckily our stomachs were up to the challenge.
On another day, we took a cab ride up to “La Casa del Arbol” for a great view of the Tungurahua volcano. Well, it would have been a bit better if the clouds had backed off a bit.
At over 16,000 feet it is very impressive and still very active. Although nothing explosive happened while we were around, we heard stories of the fury she could unleash.
Our final day in Baños we took the bus to Puyo (about an hour away) to visit a monkey rescue called Paseo los Monos. This facility takes in monkeys (and a few other animals) which have been found injured or orphaned, and they prepare them to be released back into the wild. The rescue was full of fun and friendly monkeys who were eager to say hola.
Kristen fell in love with a few of these friendly monkeys, and it was like pulling a kid out of a toy store when it came time to leave.
These guys were geniuses and kept trying to get in to our purse and backpack to see what kind of goodies we had. We had heard if they get their hands on something, they will take it up the tree and then you have to wait for them to drop it down. When they quickly figured out the zippers and velcro, it was time to “help” them off.
Even with our various stomach issues we managed to have a great time in Baños. It is loaded with extreme activities (we didn’t try the bungee jumping, paragliding, or bike riding down a volcano), and it has a good vibe that could make it easy to spend a long time there.