Backpacking in Banos, Ecuador

26 Nov

There’s too much to say about Banos in one measly blog post, so when we return home, I plan on breaking it down by activity and throwing in some accompanying photos and videos.

When we arrived in Banos, it was late, but we had no trouble finding a good spot for dinner and drinks. We went to Cafe Good, whose modest name doesn’t do justice to its fresh guacamole, $1 beer and delicious tacos. As it turns out, $1 beer is par for the course in Banos – just one of its many delights.

The town is situated at the bottom of a massive, active volcano called Tungurahua. It most recently erupted, spewing lava and ash, in August 2012 – yes, only three months ago. The last major eruption, however, was in December 2010, and involved an evacuation of the town. The funny thing is, when you’re in town, you can’t see the volcano because of the enormous mountain in front of it. But Luc and I hiked up the mountain across the river, and there it was, looming over the town like an invisible giant.

20121126-182025.jpg Looking down on Banos from the Sauces hiking trail, with Tungurahua shrouded in clouds but visible in the background.

Since Banos is so small, we didn’t need to cab anywhere, and just walked out the front door of our hostel whenever we needed anything. We stayed at Hostal Chimenea, which was about a one-minute walk from the hot pools. The outdoor baths are filled with water from the volcano, and they claim that it’s the only method of heating used. The cold plunge pool and cold shower spouts are fed from a waterfall that cascades down right beside the pools. It’s impressive, because the hotter pool of the two is blazing (there’s one hot and one even hotter). It really gets the blood pumping to stand under a stream of freezing cold water that you can see being channeled over from the waterfall, then hop into the steaming-hot bath of volcano water.

While at the baths we met a fellow Canadian who told us about his favourite hike to see Tungurahua, and that’s where we headed that same afternoon. (See above photo.) Before that, though, we started the morning with canyoning – repelling down waterfalls. That deserves a whole post. As does the go-karting down the highway along La Ruta de las Cascadas (the waterfall route) in dune buggies, which we did the previous day.

The only crummy thing about Banos was leaving it. There’s so much to do there that we’re already dreaming about going back. The bus ride to get there and back isn’t great, especially when your driver is racing another bus through tiny, cobblestone streets in order to pick up more people first. I wanted to remind him that if the bus tips over, you won’t be getting more passengers, even if you cut off the other bus first.

Banos is definitely an adventure town, and more time is spent outdoors on a mountain or in a waterfall than wandering the streets.

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2 Responses to “Backpacking in Banos, Ecuador”

  1. Ron Gladiuk 27/11/2012 at 7:28 pm #

    There sometimes can be no greater adventure than a bus ride. Our most memorable bus trip was in Mexico in 1978, taking the bus from Palenque to San Cristobal de Las Casas. An old, funky school bus with a crew of two, the driver and ticket taker/mechanic/baggage handler/shotgun rider. What a trip, winding road with blind corners and steep, steep drop offs, oncoming buses and other buses trying to pass! Picking up villagers along the way, the sugar cane cutters with their machetes and a pregnant young woman. A wild ride, occasionally interspersed with people puking out the windows, but we felt safe with the religious shrine atop the engine compartment, rosary beads swinging from the rear view mirror and the Holy Mary stick shift knob. Oh my God, we laughed and loved it. Unforgettable.

    • linda rai 28/11/2012 at 6:59 pm #

      Sounds like you are enjoying the weather, hospitality and adventures S.America has to offer!!!! a trip of a lifetime! The volcano looks very imposing over Banos in the foreground…we want to hear how you pronounce the name of the Volcano…looking forward to seeing more photos and hearing about your trip! Christmas music is in the air, lights
      are a welcome relief to the darkness of winter and we look forward to
      enjoying the holiday season with you on your return!!! love, Auntie
      Linda and Uncle Kim XOXO

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