29 April 2012
Connie, comfortable in the 70's
Banos, Ecuador March 18, 2012
We took a three day trip to the town of Banos with our friend, Grace. It was a few hours south of Quito and it was a beautiful drive through the mountains of the Andes. The town of Banos is located along a river in a narrow valley with the mountains rising steeply from the edge of town. It got its' name Banos (or Baths) because there are thermal hot springs in the town from the nearby volcanoes. When we got to town we found a comfortable Hostel for $20 a night overlooking the town square. This area of the Andes is a temperate tropical rainforest whose year round temperature is 72-75 degrees. It is humid and rains often in the afternoons for a short duration. It was very comfortable, just about the perfect climate. The next day we went to see some of the many waterfalls in the area. As we drove down the valley along the river, we saw many zip lines and cable cars crossing over the river and back. We stopped to take a picture of a waterfall and decided to take the cable car across the river. It was exciting and a little scary as we crossed the valley and were looking down on the waterfall from up high. We drove on and came to a double waterfall called Bridal Veil Falls. It was across the river valley from the road, so we took a cable car down to the river and then walked across a long suspension bridge over the river, and then up the trail to the falls. They were big and we couldn't get very close without getting quite wet from the heavy mist. We got acquainted with a man and woman who had a house about 100 yards from the falls. They told us a story about how the waterfall changed from a single waterfall to the double one that it is now. It had been raining heavily for some days and the river was getting bigger. In the valley above them the river had overflowed its banks and spread out in the valley and carved out another waterfall right next to the first one with large boulders separating the two falls. They woke up early around 4 a.m. to feel their house shaking with a loud thunderous vibration. They didn't know what was happening but decided they should leave, so they ran down the path and across the suspension bridge. As it turned out, their timing was good because when they got across the suspension bridge and looked back at their house there were two waterfalls full of water thundering down and overflowing the banks of the river and it washed their house away. It was such a traumatic experience for them that the wife still gets tears in her eyes when she talks about it. The river washed away about 15 houses and bodies were found later many miles down stream. They rebuilt their house, but don't live in it anymore. They rent it out to vacationers. It's a beautifully idyllic setting next to the waterfall with beautiful tropical gardens surrounding it, as long as the river behaves and stays in its' banks. They showed us pictures of what their house and the waterfall looked like before the flood. We got in the car and continued down the road to another waterfall. In order to see this waterfall we had to hike down a long, very steep trail. By the time we got to the bottom, my legs were like jello and I seriously doubted whether I could climb back up to the top. But it was worth it!! When we parked the car at the top it was starting to rain and I thought we were going to get soaked. But I was wrong. The rainforest vegetation was so thick that we never got wet. This area has so much water that it was trickling out of the hillside in many places and running down alongside the trail. When we got to the bottom we had to go UP the trail to see the water fall (oh, my aching muscles!), but I made it! We could hear the thunderous roar and feel the vibration long before we could see the waterfall because of the thick vegetation. We came to a lookout area right next to the waterfall and it was about halfway up the height of the waterfall. The water poured over the top into a pool that was enclosed on three sides by vertical rock walls. The water poured over with such force that the heavy mist swirled up within the rock walls and got us very wet. There was a lookout area near the bottom of the falls and our friend, Grace went down there and got even wetter! We chose to stay where we were. The trail went up farther (you had to crawl through a crevice in the rock face for part of the way) and ended up right under the top of the falls, with the falls going over your head about a foot away. It was an awesome waterfall. After seeing it "up close and personal" we went down the trail and across a suspension bridge to see it from another angle. There was a small shelter and snack bar by the suspension bridge with a fantastic view down the river valley, where we got a drink and rested in preparation for our trek back up the steep hill. We huffed and puffed our way back up to the top of the hill (Boy, are we out of shape!!) and eventually made it back to the car. This had been an absolutely amazing day, but wait, Grace had something more to show us. We got back to town and changed for dinner and she drove us up to a restaurant, high above the town, where we had dinner. What a fantastic view!! These mountains rise very steeply from the valley below, so that it seemed like we were looking almost straight down at the town. What a great way to end an amazing day! After dinner we went to one of the hot pools to soak our tired muscles. It felt great, but was packed with people, including kids jumping in and splashing, so we didn't stay long. This ended our week stay in Ecuador and the day after we returned to Quito, we flew home. Thanks to Grace, we had a wonderful time in Ecuador, as she took us everywhere and showed us many wonderful sights!