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Baños

Written on: Friday September 14th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Author: Julie

Hola!

It was sunny and warm today! It?s a nice change from the contstant drizzle and cloudy skies we?ve had since arriving in Baņos. The sky was blue, we could see the top of the surrounding mountains for the first time and we didn?t need to wear 5 layers of clothes to keep warm and dry.

At breakfast time, we said good-bye to our friends Hosse and Martin who were leaving for Quito and their last week in Ecuador. They were amazingly warm and friendly people and we hope to meet more like them during our trip. Hosse has offered to let us stay with him Utrecht, Netherlands when we get to the European portion of our trip. We?re going to do this a lot I fear? meet new friends and watch them leave during our travels. Fortunately, the internet is the glue that binds the world closer so we have exchanged email with many people we?ve met and hope to stay in touch with them.

With one last wave, we walked away and went to rent bikes for the day. Many, many places in Baņos rent mountain bikes as well as four-wheelers to tourists. The planned destination is the route of the waterfalls which is along the winding road to the city of Puyo. There are 7 waterfalls to be seen, including the biggest one of all: the Pailon de Diablo. I inspected the bikes to make sure that everything was in working in order and not apt to break, as Martin and Hosse had experienced the day before. One of Martin?s pedals fell off and then his rear-derailleur cracked and wedged itself in his rear wheel moments after coming to a stop. He was lucky because had just been cruising down a steep hill at top speeds.

We paid our 10 dollar fee, took our crash helmets that were dinged up and our roadside bike repair kit and hopped on our bikes. The road was straight forward, most of the time we just sat on our seats and cruised down the road, staying on the shoulder of the road to avoid the buses, cars, and trucks that sped past us. There are a few tunnels carved through the mountain on this particular road and we had been warned not to go through them as it was dangerous. There is a trail that goes to the side of them large enough for a small car or better yet our mountain bikes? except for the first tunnel which wasn?t really all that long but still dark. We rode into it and as the light behind us receded we couldn?t see a thing except for a small light opening at the other side. I was hoping that there weren?t any potholes or speed bumps or I would be going for a nasty tumble. Kevin made it through but I had to stop and stick myself to the side of the tunnel wall as 4 large trucks rumbled past me at top speeds, only sounding their horns once I was directly in their line of sight. I thought to myself ?I am Spiderwoman, I?m sticking to this wall!?. The moment the last car was past me, I jumped back on my seat and peddled as hard as I could to follow the bit of light his daylights threw on the road. Out of the tunnel I came, to see Kevin squinting into the tunnel, waiting for me to appear. Once I saw him, I started to laugh: no wonder it was so dark in the tunnel, we both had forgotten we were wearing our sunglasses! We took a moment to compose ourselves and back on the road we went, cruising down the hills but not at very fast speeds, there was a strong headwind and there were times were we actually had to peddled down the hill to move at all. The little time I spent on the bike really made me appreciate the amount of work and sweat it must have taken Dominic to make it just to Ecuador. He?s going to be hitting Patagonia in southern Argentina soon. That area is known for non-stop winds that make bikers roll backwards even when pedaling as hard as they can. He?s got his work cut out for him!

We stopped at a couple of waterfalls which were beautiful but not that impressive. We took our requisite photos and continue along the route. Taking the trail around one tunnel, we were able to bike under a small waterfall, which was refreshing and pretty neat.

At another waterfall, we stopped at a look-out and realised that there was a cable-car crossing the river to the other side. We paid 1$ each and off we went. The cable-car was very fast and Kevin and I pretended like everything was fine because of a little school girl who had hopped on with us was looking at us, holding on to the side nonchalantly We weren?t going to let any kid know we were a little nervous. The cable-car driver was nice enough to stop for us directly over the waterfall so we could get amazing photos straight down the falling water. One the other side, we were about to hope right back on to head back to the other side when we noticed a trail leading to a look-out over the falls. We walked along, following the river that was about to spill over the edge and got to the look-out. It was fantastic to see! The spray from the water, the roar of thunder, the height of the falls!

On the walk back, we saw a little hut with a little boy. He stopped us and asked if we wanted to buy something to drink. He was so cute so we said we would buy a coca-cola for 50c. He ran back in, took the bottle out of the fridge, grabbed a stool, climbed up, grabbed the bottle opener, opened it and brought it back to us with a smile. We talked with him for a while, asking where his father was (in the woods tending their fields) and his mother (in Baņos earning lots of money!). His name was Alex and he was 8 years old. He ran the little store for his parents. It?s amazing how much responsibility children in this country are given. We?ve seen many children working and selling items in the streets or older siblings (as young as 5-6 years old) carrying their baby sibling (as young as 6 months) on their backs while their parents worked. We finished our drink and gave him back the empty bottle and heard a little cat cry. We asked him if there was a cat around and he showed us a little scrawny cat in the kitchen then with a smile he ran out to another room and brought out a burlap bag, turned it upside down and out came three little grey kittens. They were so funny, running here and there, attacking anything that moved including each other and jumping straight up any time one of us moved. Alex would grab them under the legs and hold them straight out laughing. I took many pictures but none came out nice, they were too darn fast for my camera. At about that time, I realised that I was getting bit around the ankles by little black flies so that was my cue to return to the bikes and continue on our path. We waved good-bye to our new little friend and headed back up the trail.We took the cable-car back across, marvelling once again at the waterfall and river below us.

Back on the bikes we continued to cruise mostly downhill, with a couple of uphill that needed us to peddle hard. We had been spoilt by the easiness of the route. We arrived at a bridge over the river and realised that for 15$ we could bungee jump. Kevin was half and half about doing the jump and I as his videographer tried to encourage him but he decided against doing it. There was no way I was going to jump, I like my feet on hard ground.

We finally rode into the little village of Rio Verde to the sound of cheering. It couldn?t have been for us so we had to find out what it was. It was a playful off game of women?s football between the home squad from Rio Verde against an outside team. We watched and cheered for a while and laughed every time the ball was kicked down the cliff behind one of the goals. A kid had to run down the steep hill to retrieve it. We wondered why they didn?t hang a cheap net on that side to stop it from rolling down each time. Ah well! As the game came to an end, we continued on our bikes to the entranceway to the biggest and most majestic waterfall of them all: Pailon de Diablo. We left our bikes at the bike-parking and walked the 1km path to the waterfall and the restaurant built alongside it. As we neared, still 10 minutes away on the path, we could hear it roaring. The closer we got the more it thundered, we couldn?t imagine how big this waterfall for the sound and vibration it was causing. At the restaurant, we paid the 1$ fee to access the stairs leading to the look-out and up we went with anticipation. Up and over, onto the look-out we went and were blown-away (no pun intended) by the sheer force and size of the falls. It had to be at least 100 feet high and the amount of water falling from it heights down into the frothing cauldron below was unbelievable. We could barely see for the amount of spray being sent up around the surrounding cliff walls, where moss and root tendrils hung. Within seconds, we were both drenched by the fine mist. It was much more than we expected and now we understand why the bike ride is advertised everywhere to the tourists. It is worth going to see!

Back at the bike-parking, we unlocked our bikes and headed to the parked trucks that are part of a service to the bikers. They throw your bike into the back of the truck and you climb in to sit on the wooden benches and they bring you back to Baņos for a 1$. We rode with the bikes banging around us, got to experience the tunnels we had skipped and got back to town for 6 PM. All in all, a wonderful day: sun, heat, a nice cruise down the road, waterfalls to amaze at, and a nice little kid to laugh with.

 

From Christine on Sep 17th, 2007

Save the bungee jumping for Skippers Canyon in New Zealand. It's the best!!