We can get up at a reasonable time today and have breakfast. Yesterday’s hiking tour doesn’t have to be resumed today. Now we want to visit the area around Baños – certainly in a touristic way, yet simple and comfortable.
We already visited one of the many tour operators yesterday and are punctually in the office – we’ re off right away. Alright – off to the Chiva party buses. In a parallel street to the pedestrian zone one bus is lined up behind the next. We board ours and hardly a few minutes later we depart.
The party music in the early morning also helps us to wake up. After the first stop at the hydroelectric power station in front of the village entrance we continue to the waterfall “Manto de la Novia”, where we make a short stop. An amazing view! The road leads us to a canyon, where we see a small river – it seems as if it is fed by all the waterfalls in the area, including the two smaller waterfalls through which we drive with the Chivas.
We make another stop at another side canyon: There are some attractions like bungee jumping, ziplines or a kind of rope swing over the canyon in a metal cage. We choose a zipline ride over the canyon (10 USD per person). Interestingly, there are several types of harnesses that you can put on – you can also glide horizontally over the canyon in a “Superman” pose. Alright !
A couple with 2 small children is waiting in line before us. There are also tandem mounts for smaller children, but the two kids don’t seem to like it at all. First everything is examined VERY critically, then the crying begins, since they have been hanging over the abyss for quite a while before it started – “How to traumatize your kids 101” . But hey, at least these are no helicopter parents . After also passing the canyon we get picked up on the other side by the waiting bus.
Just about 500m further the water of the next waterfall is gushing into the depth: “San Pedro”. Here you can also take a cable car over the big canyon (2 USD per person). Sounds great! Cosy cable car ride with a beautiful view. That’s what we thought! The small gondola starts to move rapidly and we have to hold on tight in order not to fall down. A cable car which moves faster than the ziplining from just before?!?
Once we have solid ground under our feet again, we set off to see the probably largest waterfall in the area: The “Pailon del Diablo” (2 USD per person entrance). As expected there are more people here during the weekend – many local families seem to make day trips here – but it doesn’t seem to be overcrowded, as the area is quite large. There are two circular paths which lead under the waterfall and one with suspension bridges over the gorge, so that you also have a view of the waterfall from above. An incredibly fantastic sight…
Returning to Baños we have to stuff our belongings into our backpacks. We have still enough time to arrive in Latacunga and also get to see a little of the city. We call a taxi to the bus station and also get tickets (2,5 USD per person). Since we still have about fifteen minutes before the bus leaves, we stock up with some sacks. You can also find Baños famous toffee here. Ena has to grin: “For my dear mother-in-law” is written in toffee letters in a candy box .
I’m beginning to suspect that the people who sell the bus tickets always assign the seats with the most beautiful view to the non-residents. Either that, or the view is always great from whichever side of the bus. I can’t explain it to myself, because from the right side we have an incredibly beautiful view of gorges, meadows and the volcano in the distance…
By the way, I find it interesting that the sellers for snacks and fruits who get on the bus do not only address tourists. Also, you don’t seem to have to pay the usual “gringo tax” here.
In front of us on the way there is a small traffic jam. Probably because of the weekend – it was good to leave as early as possible. So we will probably arrive before nightfall. There also seems to be a huge farmer market here: I wonder if even people from Quito do their grocery shopping here?
We leave the bus at a roundabout on the Panamericana to Latacunga. The bus continues to Quito – we had actually assumed that it would stop in the city itself. Theoretically it could go on through the city via Salcedo, but it doesn’t seem to be in the timetable. Well, that’ okay, too. As soon as we have picked up our things from the luggage compartment we are surrounded by taxi drivers. Our backpacks are almost torn out of our hands. Chill out, boys.
Once the backpacks are in the trunk, we board the taxi. What might the ride cost? Barely 5km to the city. “3 USD? 4 USD?”. The question about how much the trip will cost is not answered by the driver and he turns on the taximeter. He says it would be about 20km to the city center. Uhhh – what ?! And the taximeter is ticking at every second (Even while we are standing). Funny. We didn’t even move 5 meters and didn’t leave the roundabout, and that’s supposed to cost 0.50 USD? Bullshit. Nope, “Soy Griego, no Gringo, Amigo “ No gringo tax for us today. We get out, pack our stuff – yes, the driver is confused, probably imagined ripping us off to be easier – and… we can already see a bus heading in our direction on which “Latacunga” is written as the final destination. The ticket seller is already waving at us from the driver’s door and we get into the bus with all our stuff. The bus driver and the other passengers have to laugh – apparently tricking “stranded” tourists at the intersection seems to be common to taxi drivers. Barely 10 minutes later we are also at the bus station and then after another 10 minutes walk at our hostel.
Tiana, the owner, gives us plenty of information about Quilotoa and the bus connections up there. Everything sounds less bright however, since returning is supposed to be difficult: The buses are said to drive quite irregularly. The tours she offers seem to be more convenient, however the strict schedule does not suit us here. Therefore, we decide to try it on our own – we still have a little time buffer until our flight from Quito to the Galapagos Islands, so we guess it will be possible to make it in time…
We have dinner in a Mexican restaurant. Hmm, okayish – but at least we’ re not hungry anymore. To end the evening with something tasty we have a look around for bars and discover some of them in the side street in front of the hostel: Apparently, a kind of “night street” is just developing here, because all the bars still seem to be in some sort of a “self-discovery phase”: After the “Medieval Techno” shed, which looks nice from the outside, but then surprises us with the “special” music, we visit the bar next door. The waiters, the guests, everyone in the shop seem to be totally surprised by us: They just opened the shop the day before yesterday and so far only friends and family have been here. We sit down together and order the only thing that is currently in stock: Beer and Cuba Libre. We are going to have a cheerful get-together and an interesting evening .