If you’ve seen any of my other posts you’ll have learnt I’ve visited lots of churches and taken many cable cars or teleferico’s in the major cities so far. Quito was no change. We visited two churches, firstly La Basilica which is a huge building with great views across the city. It has an English look about it. The second church was smaller but more impressive as it is almost completely decorated in gold inside. You’re not allowed to take photos of the inside unfortunately but there’s a picture below from the internet to give you an idea.
The Teleferico was a little different to most of the others as it wasn’t a public transport method, purely for sightseeing or for people who want to climb Pichincha, the volcano overlooking Quito. It took over 15 minutes to get up there and at just over 4000m above sea level, it was the highest of all of the cable cars so far. Unsurprisingly we were greeted with great views of the city and once again the size of it was staggering. Quito is in a valley and it stretched further than we could see. After some token jumping photos we made our way back down into the city and explored a little more. Rob took us to his favourite place in Quito and I think his favourite place in the world. It was a market full of tons of random things like clothes, motors, tools, materials and countless other items.
The next evening Ed and I made our way to Banos. We arrived late in the evening when it was dark. I’ve decided I like arriving to new places in the dark and waking up the following morning to a surprise in what I can see. I definitely wasn’t disappointed when I strolled around Banos the following morning. There were mountains in every direction with lush green forests on the steep hills. The town itself was also very picturesque and for a reason unknown to me at the time, there were hundreds of people cleaning the street as well as a marching band playing their way through most of the streets. In the afternoon there was a parade, they were celebrating the Independence of Banos and most of the town’s businesses and social groups were taking part. This explained the morning’s intense street cleaning. .
One day we hired bikes and set off on La Ruta de las Cascadas, ‘Route of the Waterfalls’. Luckily, the way there was almost completely downhill and before long we stopped to enjoy the first of the falls. We must have seen close to ten waterfalls that day and they got progressively more impressive as we travelled further from Banos. The final two falls of the day, Cascada El Pailon del Diablo and Cascade de Machay were the biggest and the best. As we explored Cascada de Machay, we were the only ones there. It was getting late plus we didn’t want to cycle the 20km back up the hill so we managed to flag down a bus which took us and the bikes back to Banos. Lots of photos of waterfalls below…
The next day we had a packed day of canyoning and rafting planned. Sadly, that night was not a good one and either the local water, the fish I ate in the bus station, or something else did not agree with me. Without giving the details I wasn’t able to go so Ed went off canyoning while I spent most of the day in bed. We had found a great hostel in Banos and spent the evenings sitting on the roof terrace with some great company. It turned out half of the hostel seemed to be talented musicians so I was entertained with guitar, beat boxing, singing and the best harmonica I’ve ever seen/heard. Banos is Ecuador’s capital of adventure sports so before we left we crammed in a bit more fun. One day we hired a quad bike and ventured up to Casa del Arbol. There’s a tree house there with a swing that goes straight off the mountain. It’s been made famous by being on the ’27 Surreal Places to Visit Before You Die’ post on buzzfeed. I have now ticked off 2 out of 27 as Mount Roraima also made the list. Again, the views on top of the mountain were stunning with Mount Tungurahua, one of South America’s most active volcanoes, appearing and disappearing amongst the clouds. We raced back down the mountains like a cross between Sebastian Vettel and Colin McRae.
Another day we decided to hike up a mountain but within 2 minutes it started to rain. We flipped a coin and the result was that we carried on. It didn’t take long to regret that decision so we hitch hiked up to the top in the back of a truck. The reason we chose this particular mountain was that the restaurant had been recommended to us, as it turned out it was closed anyway so rather than hiking back down, we chose to hitch hike again. Easily the laziest hike I’ve ever been on.
Before we left Banos we just had time for one more activity. We decided jumping off a bridge head first would be best so went along with Patrick and Colleen, two American’s to do the jump. I had done a skydive before but this was a little different because you can see the ground when you jump. Not quite the same as a bungee jump but similar, we dived off then flipped before swinging under the bridge. It was around a 45 metre fall and a swing of about 80 metres. Not bad, but definitely beatable…
We spent nearly a week in Banos in total and both thought it was a great little town, however, it was definitely time to move on. I decided it would be more interesting to go a different way back to Quito so we headed towards Tena and then caught another bus to a tiny little place called Misahualli. It was recommended to us by the owner of the hostel in Banos and we wouldn’t have found it otherwise. We arrived in the night (again) to a place called Banana Lodge and instantly felt the heat in comparison to the mountains. We were now on the edge of the Amazon and when we awoke the next morning we realised we had discovered paradise. The hostel was almost completely empty, we had our own private cabin and the garden had hammocks, a fire and best of all, was built on the edge of a river. We quickly decided to change our plan and spent an extra day there. Although we did very little, time really flew by and before long we had to make our way back to Quito. We begrudgingly left Misahualli and because we took so long we ended up spending another night in Quito rather than at Rhiannon. We eventually made it back to Rhiannon just before their 5-year reunion/festival began…Next post to follow soon.