Back on the South American route! Getting to Banos back in Ecuador was an all day affair from Havana to Panama to Quito and then on to a bus to the lovely town of Banos. Instead of paying the ludicrous prices Quito’s airport taxis request, we hopped on a local bus from just outside the airport doors to Quitumbe bus station. This took close to 2 hours and cost $2 (back to USD now). If you land at Quitumbe station by bus you need to pay a 25c entrance fee to get through the turnstiles – not a big deal but just so you know you’ll need change. We took a bus with Touris San Francisco Oriental for the 3.5 hour, $3.50 bus to Banos. There’s also a 40c fee which you’ll have to pay for with your bus ticket to actually get out to your bus. Random but it’s a really well kept bus station. As we landed in the evening it was really dark and so we didn’t get to glimpse the amazing Volcano Tungurahua towering and puffing away over Banos – I definitely suggest doing this trip in daylight if possible.
Hostal D’Mathias was recommended by a friend in the Galapagos so we hot-footed it directly there and got the most beautiful room; hardwood floors, cable TV, separate dressing area, actual bath (although so ridiculously massive it was more of a swamp) and wifi…for $16. You can’t knock these prices! Our first day in Banos consisted of breakfast at Amarelo overlooking Parque Central – delicious granola and homemade juices. I’m a little addicted to strawberry juice these days. Banos means baths in Spanish and the town has a plethora of volcano-heated pools to visit. We checked out the Piscinas de la Virgen in the evening ($3 entrance plus $1 for swimming gap rental – obligatory). They were jam lacked and in no way enjoyable unfortunately. The next day we went to the Piscinas El Salado on the edge of town – all uphill so don’t walk or $1.50 in a taxi. They were awesome – six pools – hot and cold and all for $3 (again plus swimming cap rental).
We took the vigorous stroll (read: another god damn uphill hike) to Bellavista, a lookout point over the town high up on a hill on our second afternoon. It took a good half an hour and is 95% uphill so be forewarned. On our way down John insisted that we detour to Cafe Cielo, which was in no way downhill – it’s another 20 minute steep climb – and all for his love of coffee. Coffee which turned out to be only alright in his words but I had a lovely vanilla shake so that was worth the pressure on the glutes. That evening we went to the Stray Dog Cerveceria (bar) for a couple of drinkies. John thought he was going to get some fancy IPA beers he’s become accustomed to since living in Sydney but alas it was not meant to be…better than the couple of local beers he’s been having apparently and the owner was lovely so that makes it worth visiting anyway.
We rented bikes on our next morning for $5 for the day to tackle some of the famous Banos to Puno road. It’s very popular for cycling so we felt pretty safe – you’re only battling Ecuadorian traffic for a small portion of the mostly downhill route as there are separate cycle tracks (albeit on cobblestones). There are plenty of adventure options for adrenaline junkies on this route – you can go canopying (it’s like lying on a zipline if that makes sense) or bridge jumping. We took a trip across a canyon in a metal cage for $2 (slough I’m not 100% on that and John actually did the canopying for $10. I completely chickened out as I had enough of a kick from being suspended in a metal cage. We eventually got to the village of Rio Verde to take a walk to the base of a spectacular waterfall, Pailón del Diablo. You have to pay $1.50 to see the waterfall – we even crawled in behind the waterfall to check it out. You only get a little wet. There’s also a suspension bridge which you can walk across to see the waterfall from above (this is before you come to the church though and you can’t get there from the bottom of the waterfall). Since the cycle back would have been all uphill we hopped in a waiting truck along with our bikes for $2 for the trip back to Banos.
December in Banos
Next stop: Cuenca, Ecuador.