Two buses later ($1.50 each) we arrived in Baños just after midday. Baños sits at the foot of Tungurahua Volcano, one of the most active volcanos in South America. Our guide from Lake Quilatoa (Enrique) had told us it’s normally always blowing ash, but so far this year it had been quiet.
Our hostel Erupcion was right on the corner of the town square, great people watching!
We weren’t quite sure what to do with our afternoon, so on a whim we hired some mountain bikes ($8 each) and set off down the valley looking for waterfalls. The terrain was like travelling through Jurassic park! Ziplines everywhere down the valley, loads of locals enjoying a long weekend away in Baños.
The first waterfall was very pretty and getting to it looked like a scene from Lost. We had to cross quite a rickety bridge…and we felt like we were disobeying TLC’s orders not to chase waterfalls. However, once safely across I told Tiff to try and pose sexy..she tried, bless her.
Our second and final destination (20km from Baños) was Pailon del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron), after a short hike down through the jungle, we climbed up towards the mouth of the waterfall. We had to crawl on all fours with a layer of rock above us and the spray of waterfall coming through the gaps (Not ideal for Tiff’s claustrophobia!!). Elf and Safety would be having none of it back home! But nonetheless little kids and oldies were clambering up and the view from the top was fab!
The following day was our first taste of the Amazon, it is in the Pastaza province, the biggest and most biodiverse in the country. Very exciting! (The day tour cost $30 pp, definitely ask around as some places charged $65 for the same trip).
We were sat ready in the hostel at 8am only to be told the tour was actually at 9am! RIP that extra hour’s sleep. The tour involved just the two of us and a family of 3 Ecuadorians. We were flung into a jeep, Tiff being very above average height in Ecuador got the front seat, I, the hobbit was essentially put in the boot!
First stop was the animal sanctuary – animals rescued from trafficking or wrongly kept as pets. There were exotic parrots, turtles (whose previous owners had drilled holes in their shells to put leads on), crocodiles, pumas, jaguars, monkeys, capybara, tapir, weird hog/pig/anteater things, and anacondas (with their respective little chicken dinners running around below them!).
After the sanctuary, we canoed down the Amazon, had lunch in the jungle, and trekked to a hidden waterfall called HolaVida (hello life). En route our guide gave us a special Amazonian mud facial…’apparently’ people would pay good money for this at top spas!
Lastly, we visited one of the many Quichua communities (Amazonian tribes). The kids painted our faces using these little red fruits as the adults spoke about their different customs and performed traditional dances. They then let us use the blow darts that both the male and females use to hunt! We also enjoyed seeing their pet peccary named Bacon (basically a small warthog) roaming around. It was all very fascinating and far removed from life in the UK!