A beautiful spa town and Volcan Tungurahua

Trip Start Sep 04, 2008
Trip End Jan 27, 2009

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Hotel Transilvania

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Monday, September 22, 2008

Baņos is a beautiful place, surrounded by mountains including the active Volcan Tungurahua.  The town has been on alert since 1999, when it was evacuated for a few months, as the volcano is active and regularly spits out lava, rocks and smoke.  It has an evacuation scheme in place, and signs around town, in case the top blows and the town is engulfed.

There are several waterfalls, and cable cars across the gorge to some of the bigger ones, along the road to Puyo in the Amazon.  We hired a small motor buggy for a day and went exploring.  Some waterfalls come across the road and you can see others further away.  There are also 3 tarabitas (cable cars) at various points which look incredibly scary.  The best waterfall is the Pailon del Diablo which you have to walk down to, off the main road.  Itīs a steep walk downhill and incredibly noisy when you get to the fall.  We viewed it from a rickety old bridge and from some viewing platforms higher up. Tom climbed up right in behind the waterfall - you have to crawl through a dark wet tunnel to get there!  On the way back to Banos, we went accross the gorge on the Monta de la Novia tarabita which stretches 500 metres to a waterfall on the other side. 

On other days, we walked up to miradors (viewing places) on the mountains above the city.  It was tiring walking, up steep steps, to the first (although we felt ashamed to be slow when local school children came past us on a run!)  The second was even harder work, up steep mountain paths through undergrowth and we decided to walk back down the road as it was starting to get dark and we werenīt sure how safe the paths would be after dark.  We had hardly passed anyone during the day, the paths were very quiet.  We weīre glad when a camioneta (pick up truck which doubles up as a local bus) stopped to pick us up as it turned out to be a long way down the road to the town. 

You can hire motorbikes in Baņos (they didnīt seem worried about licences or anything else, although Tom has a licence now).  We hired a Yamaha XR250 for an hour for 10 dollars and took it for a blast up the road to the Bellavista,  viewpoint of the Volcan Tungurahua. It was a beautiful winding road with no potholes in sight (rare in Ecuador!) and hardly another vehicle in sight.  It got quite cold quite quickly as we climbed steeply up the mountainside and the views were stunning.

We also went to the Piscinas de la Virgen - pools of spring water heated by the volcano to 38 and 42 degrees C.  There is also a very cold pool which Tom went in and a spectacular waterfall down the mountain immediately to the side of the pools.  They are open at night until 2200 and are floodlit at night!  The pools are supposed to be good for your health and were certainly very relaxing, if quite busy with locals!

Baņos also has the weirdest museum ever. It has a shrunken head from the Shuar tribe in the Amazon, loads of placques left there by local people to thank Nuestra Seņora de Agua Santa for looking after various family members and performing various miracles, some really badly stuffed birds and animals, various pickled animals and fish (including oddities such as a 2-nostrilled, 3-palletted calfīs head, for example...) and a collection of religious outfits.  

We really enjoyed a local zoo, located in a stunning valley with a fast river at the bottom, where rescued and injured animals are rehabilitated (and released when possible).  The zoo has loads of indigenous birds and animals in nice spacious enclosures including a jaguar, ocelot, spider and cappucin monkeys, spectacled bears, toucans, scarlet and hyacinth macaws, parrots, king vultures and an Andean condor.  Tom was delighted to spot some nasty looking yellow and black spiders around the walls of the zoo!
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