Miss E always refuses to look at the camera for family photos!
We decided on one last trip in Ecuador before heading back to the US. Baños is in central Ecuador and is named after the hydrothermal mineral springs located around the city. There are many waterfalls nearby and the active volcano, Tungurahua, is a majestic site when the clouds are not enveloping it. It is also close to the Amazon River allowing access to the jungle, which we did not get to see this trip. There are many activities available for tourists in the region, including, but not limited to, canopy tours, mountain climbing, hiking, biking, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, ATV tours, therapeutic mineral springs, waterfall viewings, bungee jumping and bridge swinging, and jungle tours.
Baños is also known for meolcocha, a type of taffy made from cane sugar. You can watch them stretch and pull it on the wooden hooks in the doorways of the shops. We tried some but I didn’t care much for the extremely sweet, chewy candy.
La Iglesia de La Virgen de Agua Santa. Notice the volcano and waterfalls play a very important part of their religious worship. It is said that the Virgin Mary appeared nearby a waterfall, La Virgen, in the city.
We stayed at a lovely eco-hostel called La Casa Verde. For $50 a night (kids under 5 are free) we stayed in a 4 bed room (a double, single, and 2 bunk beds). Guess who slept in the double bed. Yup, Miss E! Our stay included a wonderful breakfast of fresh, local fruit salad, yogurt, granola, fresh made juice (mandarin, blackberry, maracuya, banana smoothie…), homemade bread, cheese, avocado, tomatoes, different varieties of jams and honey. I also had a relaxing hot stone massage for $25. The owners and everyone that worked there were super friendly and very helpful directing us to appropriate activities with the children. They also offered dinner at an extra cost of around $6 but we opted to eat dinner in town while we were there.
Our first day we decided to do the ‘short hike’ up to Bella Vista where there was a nice panoramic view of the city of Baños. The hike up to the view point was basically a climb up the mountain. That’s quite difficult without kids, but downright strenuous with them. I wore Miss P the entire time and Cory had to wear Miss E for a large portion of the uphill climb. I told Cory I was taking it like childbirth, 20 steps at a time then resting in between. The paths are not well marked and we had to ask some farmers where the view point was. They kindly pointed us in the correct direction. They wondered why Cory wasn’t carrying Miss P and I told them because he had been carrying Miss E. After reaching the view point we asked a hiker where another trail led and she told us, Baños. We decided to take it back down. It was a a bit slippery and steep, but no worse than they way we’d come. There was an encounter with an unfriendly dog, but Cory and I were able to keep the family safe while he made his way around us, darting down the trail. After that I wasn’t sure if my legs were shaking from fear or exertion, though I suspect the latter.
That same evening, after resting, we drove up to the La Chamana Falls, a short distance from the hostel. The falls were beautiful and there was even a little path leading down to the base of them. We drove up a little ways from the viewing area and stopped at a hotel/restaurant, Finca Chamanapamba. The place was quite impressive, with lovely natural wood details, stained glass, mosaic floors, terraces. We had a small meal and enjoyed chatting with the owners’ son. They are from Germany and he was born in Ecuador shortly after they came to the country. The menu included some Hungarian cuisine, of which we tried, and enjoyed, the goulash. Miss E and P loved the puppy, Anya. We then headed into town to the La Virgen thermal bath, completely unprepared. Apparently you need towels, soap, shampoo, and a shower cap. But you can purchase or rent these things. So if you find yourself there, take those things with you. The girls enjoyed the pools, but the coolest of them (think hot bath) was rather crowded. If crowds aren’t your thing you may want to skip it or find out when they are not so busy.
The following day we headed up to see if we could see the Tungurahua Volcano. It is notoriously shrouded in mist but we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it with an ash plume on our way into Baños. And that was the best view of it we had the three days we were there. We attempted viewing the volcano twice our second day there. On our second attempt we arrived at one of the most popular viewing spots, La Casa Arbol, a tree house and swing, just before sundown. A minute or so after climbing up to it the clouds again enveloped the top of Tungurahua. But we did stay for a little while and Cory and Miss E enjoyed swinging over the edge of the mountain for a bit.
Our final dinner we had in a restaurant called Casa Hood. I was not a huge fan of the Pad Thai but Cory really enjoyed the Mediterranean plate and we were delighted by a lovely French-Canadian band, Tcha-Badjo, that stopped in to play a few songs before heading up the street to play at a local pub. Miss P was happy enough to bounce along to the beat.
After three nights we checked out of the hostel and took a little drive in the opposite direction of Cuenca. There were a couple more waterfalls to see. If we hadn’t had our bags in the car and it wasn’t so rainy we may have taken the cable car across the river. We were very glad we decided to make the long trek to Baños. It is a beautiful town with so much to offer the traveler. Many things are difficult with young children, but not all are impossible. For now, I don’t mind having an excuse not to bungee jump anyway.