A Night in Quito, A Few Days in Banos

We got the day bus back from the coast to Quito where it was raining and cold, such a change from the hot weather at the coast.  The following morning we took a taxi to the massive new southern bus station in Quito known as Quitumbe, which is a modern, purpose-built bus terminal set on a green-field site, and is a marked contrast to most bus terminals we have encountered (almost airport-like).  Elsewhere, the various companies try to sell you tickets as you are walking along, shouting the names of destinations, crowding round you in groups, trying to get you to buy their tickets.  Here, it was a model of calm, although the ticket sellers, behind their windows, couldn’t resist bending down to the little slot at the bottom of the glass screen and shouting a few destination names.  Banos Express suited us nicely, and we duly handed over our $3.50 each for the three and a half hour trip to Banos, a small town with hot spring baths.  Sounds a bit like Bath, our home town. Bus travel in Ecuador is generally a dollar an hour, so a ten hour journey will cost you $10.  We got to Banos, about 90 miles away, for about the same as a ticket into Bath from our house on our local bus service, a distance of some 1.5 miles.  The journey was amazingly scenic with views of Cotopaxi volcano with snow on its summit and lush and fertile valleys.  At Banos we arrived at a bus terminal in the middle of town and for once an easy walk to our hostel where we get a nice room with a balcony and views of the hills and waterfall.
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After replenishing ourselves with delicious coffee we toured town, which apart from a nice cathedral and central square seems to consist mainly of restaurants and adventure tour operators offering any activity you can imagine.
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Here’s a picture of Paul trying to decide which trips to do.  You can white-water raft, mountain bike, hack around on the volcano on an ATV, go paragliding, or head off to the jungle in the Amazon basin for a spot of wildlife-watching.
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Whilst we decided how adventurous to be we visited the Stray Dog Brewery, where the brewer uses water from the local natural spring near the town’s waterfall called “Agua de la Vida”.  He even transports the water to his brewery by bicycle.  More importantly, great beer!
Next day we visited the town baths – well it would be churlish to refuse.  The large bath is nicely warm, the small one in the front is very very hot, and the far (blue) one is icy cold.  The idea, so we were told, was to alternate between the baths – surprisingly we didn’t spend much time in the cold bath!  We would have stayed there all evening, but strangely the level of the water in the warm bath was reducing – we supposed as it was near to closing time.  We loved it – a great experience.
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The next day we felt like taking some exercise and decided to hike up a couple of the nearby hills.  Somehow in the excitement we forgot that Banos is at about 1500m, so with the steep incline it was hard work!  But we reached some great viewpoints.
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Another day we took a bus down the “waterfall route” in a Chiva bus, consisting of tourists packed onto hard seats and listening to extremely loud Ecuadorian rap music – all very entertaining.
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Not to lose out on the adventure side of things the bus stopped from time to time to allow us to see the waterfalls at close range.  We took one of these odd looking contraptions across the ravine to view the falls close up.
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The final stop was to walk to the base of the Devil’s Waterfall – hundreds of steps and an amazing force of water.  
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Banos was a great place to spend a few days, and even some of the locals found the touristy shops interesting!
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We are continuing south on our journey – next stop Cuenca.

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