The town of Baños, our next stop our trek south along the Ecuadorian Andes, is most famous for its natural hot baths and its ample outlets for outdoor adventuring. It is also a gateway into the Ecuadorian jungle, so many folks pass through on their way to a rougher outdoor experience. Though Shepard and I passed on the jungle visit this time around, we did do some adventuring of our own while in Baños.
We spent one day “canyoning,” or waterfall rappelling, which, despite the gimmicky nature inherent to a guided outdoor activity in a tourist town, was quite fun. The day was warm and sunny, so the cold mountain water rushing over us felt great, and our spectacular surroundings—lush forestry and beautiful mountains—made the experience all the more refreshing.
We also spent a day biking between Baños and neighboring Puyo. In addition to a good workout, biking along the winding mountain road was a great way to take in the impressive landscape of mountains, canyons and waterfalls at a leisurely pace.
Besides these activities and a good deal more hiking, we took a few days to just hang in the quaint downtown area, enjoying everything from the interesting (if understated) architecture and beautiful folkloric music performances to ridiculously yummy local food and an awesome (affordable!) massage.
More than anything, we simply relaxed in Baños. Our hostel, Casa Verde, run by two Australians with the help (or disruption, rather), of their toddler son, may or may not have been my favorite part of the town… A bit outside the busy downtown area, Casa Verde is situated upon the rushing Rio Pastaza and its large, open rooms with ample windows afford great views of the river and surrounding mountains. A huge vegetable garden outside provided fresh fruit and veggies to accompany the homemade bread and granola of our breakfast each morning, and a clean, well-stocked kitchen offered us the quite welcomed opportunity to indulge in another traveling sacrifice, cooking! In fact, we were so relaxed, well-rested (and well-fed) at Casa Verde that we ended up staying two days longer than we’d originally planned to soak it all up.
After a few weeks of continual travel—trying to know new towns and cities each day and changing hostels every night or two—our slightly extended stay in Baños was a welcome respite. It also afforded us the chance to get to know the town a bit and even to make a few friends among the locals, things which, unfortunately, are often compromised in our form of travel.