Baños, Ecuador

A real tourist hotspot, Banos is a super scenic town that’s hemmed in on all sides by big, lush green mountains and countless waterfalls. It’s most famous for its hot springs, but now days has become a gringo playground, with endless ‘outdoors adventure’ type things on offer, from downhill biking, to rafting, to this weird thing where you throw yourself off a bridge on a rope, but then swing back on the bridge… I don’t know, even thinking about it made me feel dizzy!

Anyway, not being the ‘extreme sports’ types (and feeling like we’d had our fill from the Death Road in Bolivia and hydrospeeding in Chile!), me and Sam instead opted for a relaxing few days of hiking and soaking our bones in the local thermal baths.

Our first couple of days there saw torrential rain, with many surrounding roads closed, so cheap local bus tours were off the cards, and we instead turned our minds to catching up on the blog and DRINKING. As you do, on the road.

We had one particularly fun night that began with us drinking rum at the hostel (standard), then ending up in a bar drinking free flaming shots (?), and subsequently hanging out outside a beer shop with locals and travellers alike, playing guitar, singing raucously into the night, and drinking so much beer that we a) went to a club we don’t remember b) got bought a rose by someone we don’t remember (ok, the rose was just for me!) c) were sick in bed afterwards at like 4am (ok, just me again). CLASSY.

We did manage to do a couple of nice hikes in our time there, one of which was a steep shlep up a hill to the ‘Bellavista’ or ‘White Cross’ mirador, where you can see how the town is nestled by mountains on all sides – a pretty cool view!

Our other non-shameful activity was the hot springs in town, which were super fun. Most tourists shun the regular hot springs for more scenic ones further out of town, but we figured – if it’s good enough for the locals, it’s good enough for us! We went on a Sunday (when the Lonely Planet tells you to avoid) and experienced the springs as they truly are…. full to the brim with families, shrieking kids, drunken dads, smiling grannies and skulking teens.

There were three pools of varying temperatures and an icy shower streaming down from the nearby waterfall, and we opted for the skin-searingly hottest one which was the emptiest, but which you could only bear for a few minutes at a time! We also had to rent some pretty funny brightly coloured swim caps (they’re oddly hardline about having to wear a cap) so we also looked pretty damn cool!

We also checked out the local food specialities, one of which is a famous salt water taffy that the locals make bizarrely by stretching the taffy off a door frame! We tried a piece and it nearly broke our molars so we opted for some other sweet treats instead!

Our last day was spent frantically re-booking our flights to the Galapagos after we were helpfully informed our flight booking had fallen through (after confirming both via email and in person in Cuenca!!) … So NB if you’re planning on flying to the Galapagos, do NOT fly Avianca. They’re right idiots.
Our next adventure was a slightly more active one – off to hike the indigenous villages of the Quilatoa Loop!…