Banos: We came to party

Posted on April 17, 2011

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A quick word first about my first South American bus journey. Like most of my trip so far, it served to destroy any preconceptions I had about the continent. Quito´s bus terminal was reminiscient of a plush western station. Rather than the uncomfortable ride I had envisaged on a bus laden with chickens and goats, I travelled the four hours to Banos in National Express-style comfort. Obviously, as with everything here, it was not without its oddities. An Ecuadorian couple were basically having sex in the seats opposite me. The music was, without a word of a lie, horrendous. People were constantly invited on to try and sell various foods and items. A pair of rappers performed two songs for our “entertainment”. I pretended to be asleep when they toured the bus demanding coins.

I arrived in Banos with remarkable simplicity and, because of the smallness of the town, found the hostel I had earmarked and obtained a room very easily. The town may be small, but it is set amongst some of the most brilliant scenery I have ever seen. Mountains rose on all sides, with the town settled in the bowl formed at the bottom. A waterfall fell not far from my lodgings, Plantos y Blancos. In the distance, amongst clouds and mist, one could make out the begrudging shape of the active volcano that casts a shadow on Banos.

The town is known and visted for its outdoor sports, which include canyonning, mountain-biking and rafting. It is to my shame that, after climbing 1.2km to the Bellavista for great views of the town, my major outdoor activity was drinking one dollar Pilsener beers on the ample rooftop terrace at my hostel. Plenty of Americans and English were staying at the hostel, and I was lucky enough to fall in with a suitably obnoxious crew, including a soon-to-be PhD student from Canada, a pain specialist from Bradford and a journalist from Argentina. Once the terrace closed we sampled the lively bar scene of the town, a process only interrupted by a comical drugs raid on the 3rd night (complete with dogs, balaclavas and video cameras).

As an antidote to one particularly toxic hangover I did take the time to sample the thermal baths of Banos, the most popular of which lie at the foot of the enormous waterfall. As a hangover cure I have never known better, with three pools of varying temperature and sunbeds to soak up the afternoon heat (the climate, in fact, is very changeable). After reinventing myself sufficiently, it was back to the roof and the bars to enjoy my unfamiliar friends and surroundings before heading south to my third Ecuadorian destination, Cuenca.

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Posted in: Experience, Travel