Week 15: Whitewater Rafting and Waterfalls in Baños

Hola a todos!

This weekend I finally managed to travel to Baños—a gringolandia of sorts, filled with lots of adventures from whitewater rafting to canyoning to paragliding. Normally, I like more authentic, cultural experiences, but I couldn’t come to Ecuador and not visit Baños. However, I fell in love with this town! It is very touristy, but it still conserves the Ecuadorian culture—for instance there’s an authentic mercado with tons of vendors selling juices, encebollados, almuerzos, etc. While I was there, I tried Guatita, which is tripe with potatoes in a peanut sauce. It was surprisingly good! I also bought handmade, tradicional, taffy-like desserts called melcocha. Don’t  worry, I did more than just eat on this trip; the whole weekend was quite an adventure.

Friday morning, we set out on bus from Quito to Baños. After about 4 hours of travel, we arrived and checked into our amazing hostel. Even though we stayed in a dorm that slept 12, the place was nice, clean, and offered wifi and free breakfast! Once we checked in, we went to the mercado for an almuerzo and then took a taxi to La Casa del Árbol, a tree house with giant swings attached. For $1, we were able to swing on a variety of swings that overlooked the lush mountains and valleys of Baños. When we went, it was sunny and the views were incredible! Afterwards, we attempted to follow a trail that an Ecuadorian told us would lead to a lookout point of the town. This trail was immensely confusing, and we ended up at a random hostel, not the lookout. But that’s okay. It’s all part of the adventure right?

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On Saturday, a group of us decided to go whitewater rafting. I did not realize how terrified I was going to be. I have been rafting in the States before, but I must have experienced a tame version. Here, we had to wear life vests and helmets, as well as receive instructions for what to do if you fall out of the raft. The entire time, I just kept praying that we did not flip the raft and drown (because how ironic would it be for me to drown even though I’ve loved swimming all of my life?) Luckily, our raft did not flip. No one fell out, and everyone survived. Later that afternoon, we visited El Pailón del Diablo—a stunning, thunderous waterfall. If you are willing to crawl through a tiny cave (which we were), you can go directly behind the waterfall, which was such a fun and wet adventure.

At night, we decided to relax by visiting the thermal baths in Baños. Depending on your level of luxury, you can pay $3 to enter the public paths or $6 for the private ones. We were cheap, so we opted for the public baths. While it was crowded, I really enjoyed relaxing in the warm water. Everyone was forced to wear lovely swim caps too, so that made our outing more memorable.

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On Sunday, we had to pack up and head home. I really loved my time in Baños. There are so many activities to do, and it’s filled with really interesting travelers. I wish I didn’t have to leave, but the end of the semester is approaching, and that means I have a lot of final exams, projects, and essays to complete. It seems like my last few weeks here may be a little hectic with school and with trying to cram in last minute travels, but they should be exciting weeks, that is for sure.

Chao,

Hannah

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