Banos

This is the best and most bodacious double zip line I’ve ever seen, outside Banos

From Machachi, the small town closest to the Hidden Garden, this was a 2 hour bus ride that culminated in a 2 minute piss when we finally got to the terminal. Then it was the fist of several $1 taxis to the Casa de Molino Blanco, where another dorm room awaited. First stop after unloading was the ballyhooed Terma de la Virgen, beneath a skinny waterfall at the other end of town. The place was overrun with humanity, and too many kids, and the water in the hot pools the color of a Yoohoo chocolate soda. So I was less than impressed, and we split after a few minutes in the nasty water. Lunch at the recommended Casa Hood followed, a decent yellow Hindu Curry, followed by the first of many exploratory town rambles. Banos is a hilly town, surrounded by super steep mountains, and a mecca for hiking, biking, and rafting. We found a bar called Pipa’s, run by a Dutch lush named Nina. Mully tried to sell her his old I phone, we met her Ecuadorian musician painter husband, and drank as long as we could stand it.

There’s a quite active volcano, Tungurahua, dozing up above Banos

The highlight of the Banos experience is riding a mountain bike on the 7 waterfall route. The road passes out of town alongside an impressive gorge, and through half a dozen semi lengthy tunnels on the way, but bikes only deal with one. This gorge widens and deepens as the downhill roll continues, and soon the first, and by far the best, of a series of cross canyon zip lines is reached. Strapped in by the legs and chest, flying like an eagle two at a time , this traverse lasts almost a minute each way, and the price is right…..$15 for the roundtrip. I saw the famous Skytrek in Monteverde, Costa Rica, and that was half as long and twice as expensive. A number of inferior versions followed, along with multi person cable cars, and some of the bike routes that circumvented the tunnels passed through some fine terrain. By far the most impressive waterfall was the massive ‘ Chorro del Diablo’ that featured a long walkway, terraces, and suspension bridges accessing a thunderous gusher dropping 40 meters. Ride as far as you like, cross the road, flag down a bus and get a ride back to town for a buck and a half.

The landscape of Ecuador is unsurpassed, this is outside Banos

Banos is quite a holiday destination for the Ecuadorians, and the town was swelling on New Years Eve. Lots of folk had mannequins and figurines adorning their cars, and bands of dudes dressed as women stopped traffic with ropes stretched across the road scrounging for donations. All this tomfoolery climaxed as the night continued, with thousands of people, dressed up or not, milling around the center, drinking, yelling, and everybody checking it out in a feverish end of the year ritual. I checked out of the frenzy early, as I had a 6 am bus to catch across the Andes.

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