Day 128 – 8 Jul, 2015
It was raining when I arrived in Baños, but I could see the jungle twisting up on all sides like a cocoon. There were tenuous waterfalls cascading down from the cloud forest to the valley below. The mist and the fog created a mystical otherworld of rainbows and likely leprechauns.
Baños gets its name from the baths, or the thermal pools, that gurgle up from beneath the surface and have been reputed to have healing properties due to the high mineral content in the water.
If you’re looking for adventure sports in Ecuador, this is the hub. Everything from rafting, kayaking, hang gliding, bridge jumping, horseback riding, biking, hiking, canyoning, and much more can whet any adventurer’s appetite.
I immediately knew I wanted to try canyoning, which involves rappelling down a waterfall, but first to sample some of the “almost” free activities like any good backpacker should. Packing it in, I took a hike to the thundering Pailon del Diablo, or Devil’s Cauldron, where you can get up close (and drenched) to this magnificent beauty. Near the mid-point of the falls, you climb through a series of caves and tunnels to emerge in an absolute shower of ice cold water and can feel the true fury of this monster from behind.
Second up, a trip to the famous Casa del Arbol (tree house) was in order. It costs $2 round trip for the bus ticket and $1 to enter. Don’t mistake this for some death-defying swing over the abyss, but for the cost, it was a fun excursion. Duel tree swings constructed on the edge of a mountain give the illusion that you sail away into the clouds with an unobstructed view to what lies below. This is also where I met Alan and Emily, English teachers working in Colombia, who made an otherwise boring swing into an amusement park’s worth of laughs.
To go canyoning, I wasn’t scared, not even a little bit, but perhaps therein lies the lesson. I approached this with complete confidence as if I had been rappelling hundreds of times. I might have been better served with a healthy dose of reserve because canyoning is not at all what I expected. I thought I am fit and strong enough and this should be easy if I follow instructions and pay attention. Have you ever tried to defy gravity, backwards, in an awkward half sitting/half reclining position, using a slippery surface as your guide, while buckets of a neverending deluge of potentially dirty water (let’s be honest….this is Ecuador) smack you in the face? Well, try it. Don’t get me wrong, it was really fun and ridiculous, but it was not as easy as it looks and the power of water to bat you about like a fly is simply awe-inspiring.
Needless to say, I survived. And I am quite keen to try rappelling sometime, but I’ll leave canyoning to the fish.