It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Ecuador almost ten days now. We’re about halfway through our trip, and the fascination I had the first few days has done nothing but grow.
After a few days of kayaking at the lodge, we made our way to Baños. Baños is a tourist mountain town that also happens to be a springboard for a plethora of outdoor activities. Mountain biking, rafting, zip lining, and hiking all start in the throbbing heart of downtown. Worn concrete buildings with fading paint and white poodle mixes running wild are some of the hallmarks of this party town.
We’re traveling on a budget, so we needed to stay on a strict budget of around $35 a day while in Baños. This wasn’t hard at all, we discovered happily. There were tons of things to do that were either free or very cheap, and the hostel we stayed at was a great deal. We got a room at Princessa Maria; it had vaulted ceilings and a balcony. The hostel has a kitchen, so we bought fresh vegetables and beans at the market on Sunday and cooked them for dinners. For breakfast we’d buy 4 eggs and 2 rolls for around 75 cents, and a 50-cent avocado. Lunch was a little bag filled with beans, roasted corn and pico or a $5 meal at a local restaurant.
There were many things to do, which I would recommend if you ever travel through Baños.
-Visit the hot baths. Baños is known for their hot springs. The baths are $3, plus a 50-cent hat rental. The water in the hottest pool is murky, but that is only from the minerals in the water. We went at night, and the place was utter chaos, but it felt amazing to soak in the hot water.
-Hike to Bella Vista. Make sure you wear good shoes as the hike is pretty vertical. It took us almost two hours to hike up, and only 20 minutes to hike down. The view of the city is incredible, and if you bring a snack, there are little tables up there to eat at.
-Ride the scariest swing in the world. Get a $1 bus ride to the top of the ridge; pay $1 to get into a giant tree house village. Among silly little jungle gym like activities, ride the swing that goes out over the side of the ridge. The views are amazing, and you can spend a whole afternoon on a blanket reading.
-Try your luck at a cheap massage. We each got a $15 thirty minute massage and it was definitely worth it.
While in Baños we also got souvenirs and gifts for family back home, since there were tons of little stalls shops. Everything is cheap, and you can bargain for anything.
We also finally found some Ecuadorian coffee in Quito. Interestingly enough, Ecuador is one of 15 countries that can grow both Robusta and Aribica coffee because of its vast assortment of climates. Instead of keeping the coffee here however, 80% is exported to Columbia, Russia, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. What is more interesting is that almost every good coffee shop I’ve found so far has Columbian coffee. The Ecuadorian coffee we found is dark and full, with a rich, smooth taste. Very delicious!
We’ve made our way back to the lodge in Quijos, and have spent the last few days kayaking and loving life in the jungle. The rivers here are so pure and beautiful, with big holes, big waves, and big fun. This weekend is the Rio Quijos festival, a race aimed to bring attention to the part adventure tourism plays in Ecuador’s economy. I’ll be sitting down with the guy behind the scenes, who runs both it and Jondachi fest and also works hard advocating for a Wild and Scenic River designation to exist in Ecuador.
Ecuador’s logo is a color spectrum spiral with the words “Ama La Vida”, love life, under it. Ecuador certainly makes it easy to love life, between the breathtaking mountains, the quality whitewater, and the funky towns. Simple living, simple happiness.
All photos taken by my talented husband, Ben David Jacob. 🙂