Baños is known as Ecuador’s center of adventure activities. You can do anything here as long as it involves climbing up stuff and falling down stuff. And if it involves water and volcanoes, it’s even better.
We felt right at home there.
Here are some of the things we did that we’ve survived:
Bridge Jumping/Swing Jumping
When I posted this video of Jack jumping from a bridge, some people referred to it as bungee jumping. I should clarify.
This is not bungee jumping. There’s no spring-action to the rope.
Imagine that you’re on a bridge. The rope is attached to the left hand railing, wrapped around the underside of the bridge, and attached to you who’s about ready to jump on the other side.
Think of the result as a combination of jumping and tree swinging.
Or don’t. Don’t think. Just do it. It’s heaps of fun.
Canyoning Rio Blanco
It’s probably a good thing that it’s not super cheap, and it’s been cold and rainy half of the times we were in Baños. Or else I’d do this every single chance I’ve got.
Canyoning is SO MUCH FUN.
Funner than caving. Scarier too, even if it doesn’t include swimming underwater in total darkness.
Baños offers different rivers for canyoning – Chamana, to Rio Blanco, to Cashaurco. We wanted to do Caschaurco because it combines rapelling, jumping and zip lining, but the river was running too high from all the rains so we went canyoning in Rio Blanco instead.
Regardless of the river you choose, I’d never met someone back from a canyoning trip with a dour face.
Rafting Pastaza River
I forgot how fun rafting can be.
And for someone who can’t swim (yes, I can’t swim), that says a lot.
And even when our guide kept trying to overthrow the raft on purpose, I still managed to have fun (mostly because I didn’t realise what he was trying to do at that time).
Pastaza River is a class 3/3+ river and it was challenging enough to be fun for novices. But if we’d ever do it again, we should be ready to try a more challenging one.
Biking Down Cotopaxi
The only form of biking that we like is downhill biking. And in case you haven’t figured it out, we love being around mountains.
So when I heard that biking downhill Cotopaxi, one of the 30 or so active volcanoes that Ecuador has was an option, we were like ‘Downhill biking? On a volcano? Where do we sign up?’
First we drove as far up as the road allows. There we got dropped off with our bikes, helmets, and gloves.
And off down the volcano we go!
Then we realised that the brakes on the bike don’t work very well. Which kind of sucks since it was… well, kind of steep.
Whizzing/sliding/careening out of control past the paramo landscape at the foot of an active volcano on shitty bikes turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected. Thankfully there weren’t that many cars around. Although trying to avoid a few that were there made the ride just a tad more exciting.
And a very pretty experience too.
But it was over too quick too soon. All good things seem to end too quick.
We finally got to use our harnesses and shoes in Baños after 2 months of carrying them around in our packs.
You know the great things about rock climbing in Baños? Back in California, we had to drive for at least an hour, but here you can walk to the climbing sites. Yes, walk. The sceneries don’t fail to impress either.
The routes here kicked my ass. They don’t officially rate them, but I’d say the easiest one is a 10/a.
But it doesn’t matter. Baños was a great place to get our climbing fix before we get to Huaraz, Peru.
Teaching English and Playing With Kids – Every Day
When we first signed out with Arte del Mundo, we didn’t really know what to expect. Jack looked at me and said, ‘Working with kids? Really? What do we know about kids?’
Not much really. Rats? Plenty. We used to have them as pets. Cats? We fostered cats in our apartment. Dogs, birds, guinea pigs, rabbits? Sure.
But kids… Aren’t they full of germs? What kind of side effects would we get from being around them every day?
But it was the first of many times when blurting ‘yes’ to an opportunity without thinking too much has turned out for the better.
I’m not saying that there were not any moments of, ‘Uh oh – what do I do now?’ but the majority of the time the kids are simply… wonderful.
We loved our times there.
Although, even we did survive our times there, can’t say the same thing about Jack’s dignity:
Going Out Every Night
At our age, going out every night until the bars are closed should’ve at least done some permanent damage to our bodies, if not our pocket lining.
1. Beer here is cheap ($2 for a large bottle of beer).
2. Sharing your beer with your friends (because they come in such large bottles) is a custom here. So often, buying one beer a night is enough when you go out with friends (don’t forget to return the favor next time).
3. We have no problems to just hang out, dance, and stay dry. Boring I know.
4. All bars close at 2 am.
5. All bars close on Sundays. I loudly complain with the others over fact #4 and #5, but secretly glad that at least that gave us time to rest.
But believe it or not, the most dangerous thing that got our adrenaline pumping more than the others?
Riding Bikes Down La Ruta de Las Cascadas
Riding your bikes down the road from Baños to Puyo pass the many waterfalls along the way is one of the most popular tourist activities.
Over all of the jumping and climbing, I’d say this is the most dangerous activities we’ve done.
Riding next to the main freeway is never my idea of a good time. Especially when there’s no shoulder for the bikes to ride on.
I personally wouldn’t do this again. Not that it was not fun. Or the view was not pretty.
But half of the time I was afraid I’d get hit by a passing car. And there were A LOT of cars. They all seemed to like to get really cozy with the bikers.
I’d really rather jump off a bridge.
Having said that, our final destination – the waterfall, El Pailon del Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron), is totally worth a visit.
And if riding bikes next to a freeway isn’t your thing, you can take a bus for 25 cents there.
Phew! Just writing about that got us all excited about our upcoming adventures in Huaraz – supposedly Peru’s capital of adventures. Plenty of trekking, climbing (both mountain and rock), and who-knows-what-else is in store there.
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Hi Jill – it's been a great pleasure following your travels. Keep in touch!
When I clicked on the article, from the name I was expecting something about scary bathrooms, but this was even crazier!
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Glad to see you went canyoning! I did the same when I was in Banos and it is to date one of my favorite things I've ever done!! I almost when bridge jumping but decided not to at the last minute…kind of wish I would have now! Looks like you had quite the adventure!
Wow, riding a bike down a road with cars would have really freaked me out–but that waterfall view is pretty epic 🙂 What an adventurous trip so far!
Ohmygod, I swear I've seen Jack in San Francisco before!
And I'm glad this post is titled "Things We Did in Banos that DIDN'T Kill Us" – it would be awkward otherwise. 🙂
Really? Where/when do you think you've seen him before?
And yes, it would've been awkward. Lol…
I just really love reading your site! In the middle of planning my short term RTW trip and I am so inspired by your misadventures!
Wow, that's quite a list. Glad you made it out unscathed!
You have had a very exciting and exhilarating stay in Banos! River rafting is my speed. Oh and playing with the kids 🙂 that would work too. Not sure of the others but I never say never.
These activities sound like LOADS of fun!
I also enjoy the fact that breezing down a volcanic mountain with shitty brakes goes alongside the activity of playing with children- both extremely risky and dangerous!
I'd like to keep reading about your travels…so may I suggest you check your bike's brakes first in Huaraz? Or at least stay away from the children…
Oh, I see not only Kiwis are looking for unique ways to challenge gravity 😀
I would like to go canyoning one day. It looks like a lot of fun. BTW I love Jack's outfit. He looks fabulous!
I had no idea Banos had such an adventuresome reputation. With as much as I like flinging myself off of tall and/or moving objects, this sounds like a destination for me!