Canyoning in Baños

Our next stop was Baños, about 3 1/2 hours from Quito by bus. The buses are cheap, but not always the most comfortable. We have yet to ride in a bus in Ecuador that has air conditioning or a bathroom. But, when the ride only costs $5, you get what you pay for.

Baños is a cute town that was obviously popular with the backpacker crowd. There are lots of cheap hostels around and a “zona rosa” that is a bit of a rowdy bar scene. But, the real attraction in Baños is the geography. There are stunning mountains, rivers, waterfalls and hot springs everywhere.

Our first night in town, we checked out the nightlife and had a nice dinner out. We avoided the crazy bar scene and found some more subdued hangouts. There were lots of locals out around the town square, and we really liked the vibe of this cute town.

Yes, they eat guinea pig (cuy) here…

I even tried the Ecuadorian version of a Michelada (no tomato juice), which was a bit bigger than I expected!

The next day I wasn’t feeling all that spectacular, so I sent the boys out in the morning without me. They rented mountain bikes and stopped at some gorgeous waterfalls.

The rest did me good, because the boys informed me that we were signing up for a a canyoning trip the next day. That morning we put on full wetsuits, helmets and climbing harnesses and headed into the mountains.

We quickly learned what our day of canyoning would involve as we got a brief safety tutorial. We were going to traverse the river In the middle of the canyon, we would wade through water, climb over boulders, jump off rock overhangs into pools of rushing water and repel down waterfalls. Our two guides were there to help us find the safest way down.

Our initial plunge was a bit of a shock as the water was quite cold. I was instantly glad to have on the wetsuit. In addition to keeping us warm, the wetsuits gave us buoyancy to help us float when emerging from a deep pool we jumped into.

After the initial scramble through the water, we reached the first jump. It was a bit intimidating not being able to see how deep it was below, but we made into the next section of the river. The second jump was even higher as we had at least a 20 ft drop. The water over the overhang was rushing so quickly that our guide had to throw us each a rope in the pool below to help us to the side.

We had reached a large waterfall at least 50 feet that we had to repel down. I lost my footing twice as the rocks we covered in slippery moss, but the guides had a safety line on us the whole time. We had to keep our heads down as we descended or the water from the falls would pummel you in the face. We all made it down and were wondering what the guides were going to through at us next.

We reached the next set of falls and the guides rigged up a zip line with their ropes, so we all flew down the next set of falls and safely into another pool of water.

By the time we had made a few more jumps and repelled another waterfall, we were all starting to feel a bit fatigued. I don’t know if the guides sized us up when we signed up for this tour, but I think most people would not have been physically able to get down the entire length of the river. We were all pooped by the end! It was a thrilling experience that I would highly recommend to anyone that can handle it. Sometimes the best experiences are the hardest ones!

Mike had our GoPro attached to his helmet. Below are some still shots from the trip. I’ll work on editing video eventually. Our guide took tons of pictures and video on his camera for us which he put on a USB drive for us. Unfortunately, the drive got stolen in Colombia before we were able to download to a computer! Ugh! Do not put anything of value (even a USB drive) in checked baggage with the airlines! Lesson learned!

Our canyoning trip included lunch, and we all had fresh grilled trout at an unassuming restaurant on the river. It even had its own trout farm! It was the best meal we had in Ecuador.

After a long day canyoning, we were hoping for a good night’s rest as we had to head back to Quito the next morning. We had been staying in Airbnb places the whole trip, which frankly were hit or miss. As they were much cheaper than a hotel, I again had to say that you get what you pay for.

Our rented home had a courtyard out front surrounded by several other rental properties. Our hosts had rented the courtyard out for the day for a wedding. The wedding tent was literally 2 feet outside our front door. This wedding party had been going all day. When we returned from dinner around 10:30 and found that the party had now switched to extremely loud karaoke, we’d had enough.

We called the hosts to ask how late the party would run to which they had no answer. So, they offered to move us to another rental 10 min away. We packed our stuff and jumped in the taxi with the host’s boyfriend who was Russian and spoke no English. Trying to understand his Russian accented Spanish was a bit amusing. What we did understand was that he was offering us some weed to make up for the inconvenience, which we politely declined. But, at least we got some sleep in a quiet apartment. Lol.

Back on the bus the next day to overnight in Quito before heading to the Colombian border!

~Katie

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