Ever since Jody’s experience with altitude sickness we’ve been cognizant of the elevation of each place we head. While Banos is lower than Quito, some of the Andean passes we would have to travel through would be quite high. Fortunately, there were no issues and that episode appears to be well behind us now.
It took longer than expected to get to Banos as there were some inconsistencies between Google Maps and road signage. However, after travelling through some absolutely spectacular scenery we eventually made our way south and east to this resort town. Being so near the equator, the Andes have growth on them all the way to the top. This led to some extensive family discussion on what constitutes a ‘mountain’.
Meghan says ‘no way’! while the rest of us say yes. We have a family story of a visit to Ireland where Darren, an Irish friend of ours, told the girls on a drive to his house that we’d be home after passing the mountains in the distance. The girls, too polite to ask for clarification, whispered to their mum ‘What mountains? Those are just big hills!’ Those mountains/hills similarly trees and growth all the way to the top. In comparison to Canadian Rockies, everything else we’ve seen so far seems far less dramatic and in that regard Meghan may have a point; but our mountains are shorter than what we experienced in Ecuador!
Banos is a resort town very much in the same vein as Banff. Centred around thermal hot springs and surrounded by natural beauty, there are lots of stores selling cheap junk and over-priced kitsch. We spent two nights here in Athene Hostal which, much to the girls delight, also had bunkbeds in our family room. Wandering the town the first night, we were accosted by hawkers of inexpensive massages and spa treatments. While the notion of ‘spa-day-every-day’ does have some merit we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to pull the trigger. I did get a $5 haircut though and am starting to gain a real appreciation of Ecuador’s pricing schemes.
The central district of Banos is rather pretty. Cascada de La Virgen is the main waterfall in town and spills down a 70m cliff into a stream next to the main hot springs. We had a nice view of it from our hostel room window. There is also a fairly substantive cathedral off the main square - Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water (Nuestra Señora del Agua Santa). It is named after a vision of the Virgin Mary seen near the falls (thus the name) and is a place of pilgrimage for those who come to thank the Virgin for miracles and to ask for her blessing. The concept of a vision required some extensive explanation as the girls were still reeling from an explanation of the 12 stations of the cross in the cathedral in Quito. They weren’t quite convinced, and confirmed that I’m a terrible Catholic (or better stated an excellent lapsed one). On a positive note, we did manage to clarify the misunderstanding from our Panama City church visit (Inglesia de San Jose) and the story of Captain Morgan. It was Pontius Pilate not pirate and the two events were unrelated, separated by significant time and space.
Moving right along.
There are lots of ‘extreme’ activities you can undertake in Banos and we looked into a bike tour of the Rutas de las Cascadas to see a dozen of the waterfalls in the surrounding area. After discovering this bike tour is self-guided and 90% is on the shoulder of the highway, we decided to give that a miss and drove the route instead getting in and out of the car. This culminated in a hike to the final and most spectacular falls Pailon del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron). It was amazing with enough physical activity required that made dinner at the Stray Dog Brew Pub guilt-free and justified a soak in the hot springs (along with the experience of the ever-so-fetching swimming caps).
After two days in the town, we were ready to move on to Cuenca before making our way to the Galapagos.
We're the Danchuks - follow our explorations and family adventures in a wide world (2018).