So, Quito was cool. It was interesting, I checked off some tourist trap items from my “To See” list, and the weather was beautiful. But, for me, the main reason for even going to Ecuador was still to come — Baños.
On our first day in Baños, we arrived after a confusing (albeit cheap) bus journey, found our hotel, and promptly started eating delicious food at Casa Hood. (Side note: Although their “chicken alfredo” wasn’t really “alfredo”, it was still delicious and I would highly recommend eating there.) We then just enjoyed our hotel, Casa Real — my favorite part was the private hammock on our balcony where I could just kick back and relax.
Later that day, we went for a walk in search of some hot springs — we had big ambitions to see test both sets of hot springs, however the hot springs several kilometers away by foot were apparently closed. Alas, we walked back to our hotel and just marched ourselves to the hot springs immediately down the street. This was probably my least favorite experience I had in all of Ecuador. The hot springs were insanely crowded, insanely hot, and just plain not my style.
On the bright side, they were packed with both locals and tourists, which made me at least feel like I was enjoying something that the local people actually participate in. But, you know, they were also packed and too hot and generally miserable. Even Michelle, a lover of all things pampering/massage-y didn’t enjoy herself. I’d give it a hard pass. I decided to just call it a night and go to sleep — we had a big day coming up.
In contrast to day one, which ended up being a bust on the activities side of things, days two and three were downright amazing. Michelle and I decided to bike the ruta de las cascadas, or the waterfall route. It’s about 18 kilometers of cycling from where you rent your bikes to Pailon del Diablo, the end-point. Along the way there are countless beautiful waterfalls, amazing vistas, and high-flying thrills galore.
We kept waiting for a zipline that spoke to us, and we didn’t find it which was fine by me. Unfortunately, Michelle really wanted to zipline and since she was so accommodating for me this trip I decided we had to make it happen. Although we would ultimately rectify the zipline drama, we took Itsy Bitsy Red Cable Car (the Daydreams and Discoveries official name for it) over to a waterfall and hiked down into it, which was sweaty and sticky and adventure-y. We also played with some adorable kittens, which kept my possible grumpiness at bay.
After that, we continued on the route — stopping here or there, whenever we felt like it (or whenever my butt just needed a break from being on that bicycle!) Finally, after biking by the entrance to Pailon del Diablo (whoops!), we hiked down into the waterfall, up the steps, and through the incredibly tight caverns to get to the top, and it was amazing. My biggest regret of this trip was that I couldn’t figure out how to get to the suspended bridge above Pailon del Diablo. Next time I’m in Baños, that’s at the top of my “To Do” list, along with hiking up the steps to the top of the Virgin statue. Side note: Hiking out from the waterfall was the most difficult part of the day for me. Did I mention that you hike down on the way in and then you have to hike up on the way out after being on a bicycle for 18 kilometers and having been hiking throughout the day? It’s worth it, but it truly does suck.
Helpful Information: Every single place that rents bikes to you in town will tell you that the route is entirely downhill — this is false. Although it is mostly downhill, there are still a few hills that made me get off my bike and walk up them. Note: I’ve also not been on a real bike ride in years, so maybe that’s a factor. Also, another helpful tidbit: $10 is a fair price to pay for a zipline experience and when you see the guy telling you that there’s free bicycle parking for the waterfall, don’t bike by him thinking that it’s a scam — it isn’t.
The most important thing that I can say about Ruta de Las Cascadas is that you can complete it. I spent a lot of time worrying about what I would and wouldn’t be able to do on the route, which turned out to be just plain silly. I was totally fine and only really wanted to die on the hike out. My butt was sore for a few days and I had one gnarly bruise on my inner thigh from the bike, but other than that I was 100% fine. I would encourage anyone who is interested to try it — you’ll be fine.