The trip down to Banos from Latacunga started off differently than usual. Instead of catching a bus from the bus station, we got a taxi out to a huge roundabout on the Panamerican Highway and waited for the Banos bus to pass by and climbed on then and there on the roundabout. True South American style! We eventually pulled into Banos around 5pm and walked 10 minutes (uphill) to our hostel. Having just finished our big trek and a 4 hour coach journey we didn’t do much. We did go out for a curry however which was amazing. With an early night we were ready for an action packed next few days!
Well the action maybe didn’t start straight away. Our first full day we had an “admin” morning, followed by lunch in the main market in town. The market was great, half of it was for buying fruit, veg, fish and meat. The other half was entirely for eating and drinking. With about 20 stalls to choose from we chose one of the less busy ones to eat straight away. For $2.50 we got a delicious soup, a chicken based main course and a fresh juice. The next part of the afternoon was not as fun. We went to the ATM to get $60 out. Unfortunately the money never came out of the machine, it did however come out of our account. Needless to say Stu was grumpy. Especially after queueing for 45 minutes in the bank for them just to tell him that he needed to phone his card issuer. The evening was slightly better as we made a great chili and had a nice bottle of red.
Now for some actual action and us doing things. We decided to rent a couple of bikes out for the day to do the waterfall route, otherwise known as la Ruta de las cascadas. Being cheapskates we rented the cheapest bikes which were just about ok but in hindsight we should have spent the extra money for some really good mountain bikes. We set off on our 16km descent, yes it was mostly all downhill, stopping off at the viewpoints along the way. Throughout the route you can see a total of 9 wterfalls of various sizes. It was great to get on a bike again and the roads were very safe for cycling. Cars go through tunnels at a few points but there are special cycle lanes on the outside of the tunnel giving some amazing views at the same time.
At the end of the trail you get to the Devil’s Cauldron, the biggest waterfall of them all by some distance. Here you lock your bikes up and walk down a path to the bottom where the waterfall is. We knew it was going to be a big waterfall but what took us by surprise was the sheer power of it. There is a viewing platform closer the to water which we made our way down to. Let’s just say we were glad we brought our waterproof coats with us. After taking silly photos on our GoPro we went back up. From here there is another path going higher, the path is so small you have to crawl through the cliffs to reach the end. The end is right next to where the water starts to fall and is extremely powerful. Stu put his hand close to it but dared no further for the safety of his right hand! We then went back up to the top to have some lunch and catch a ride back to Banos. Because yes there are vans waiting to take you and your bike back up thankfully! By the time we were back up and had dropped our bikes off the day had disappeared.
Our next day was hiking day. We decided to go to the Casa Del Arbol, a treehouse on the top of the mountain with some swings going over the valley below. You can either get a 45minute bus up or do as we did and do the Sendero de la Virgen trek. The trek started right outside our hostel so was easy to find. The first part of the trek is going up steps to the Virgin statue overlooking Banos. Without realising how long the full trek was going to be we foolishly ran up parts of this bit. Rookie mistake. By the time we got to the statue we were short for breath but feeling good for the exercise. This good feeling did not last long.
After a quick breather at the statue we set out on the path leading to the top. This was a complete off road trek on small dirt paths. It was also constantly uphill. We struggled on for 1h30 before eventually getting to the top and arriving at the Casa Del Arbol. We had a fun time messing around on the different swings and mini zip line for about an hour before leaving. We decided that the trek down was a step too far, especially after some late morning downpours so we waited over an hour for the bus to take us back down. That evening we both treated ourselves to a 90 minute hot stone massage in our hostel, it was so relaxing and we felt we deserved it!
To finish up our time in Ecuador we left Banos the following morning to get to Cuenca for a couple of nights before heading into Peru. The journey went through some stunning landscapes ranging from farmlands, to mountains, arid landscapes and more. It was one of those bus journeys you’re glad you went in the day. We arrived late afternoon, checked into our hostel and went out for food.We didn’t end up doing too much in Cuenca as we were both feeling pretty knackered from the past few weeks and just needed a couple of days of chilling. We had our breakfasts every day in the local market which was a great place, we walked around the town a bit, ate plenty of good food (including our best curry in 4 months travelling) and went out for a few beers one night at a pub selling pints of craft beer for $2.50.
And here we are at the end of another country, number 7 on our list. We will definitely be coming back to Ecuador as there were quite a few places we didn’t have time to go to, including the Galapagos and we loved every place we went to. The people were welcoming and friendly, and with it being a smaller country it was easy to get from A to B. To get into Peru we got a night bus from Cuenca to Mancora, Peru’s number 1 beach resort.