Banos, Ecuador: Swings, canyoning, buggies, waterfalls and jungle treks.

[007562]Banos is a small town south of Quito in Ecuador, which is most famous for doing adventure activities and the swing at the end of the world. It’s a pretty town, which I enjoyed apart from being ill some of the time.

After we went around several tour companies, telling us the different options about what we could do here, we booked a few things for the next couple of days. In the evening, we went to a vegetarian restaurant for dinner, where I ate a burrito with chips and salad, then we heading back to the hostel for an early night.

With some conflicting information about the ‘Swing at the end of the world’, the following day we woke up around 5.00am in the morning. Some of the agencies told us that we had to go with a guide there and use their bus, some others told us that it was a long hike up there, and then we got some information about a local bus taking you us the mountain at certain times of the day. We were told it was best to go up early as it can get extremely busy but there was conflicting information about the opening times. We spoke with some other traveller who had been there and they told us there was a huge queue to go on the swing, where you could only take one photo, plus paying ten times the price we did. We definitely made the right choice of going early.

We walked to the road, where the bus picked us up and mounted on the bus. Yes, we were the only gringos, everyone else were locals going to work. After half an hour of confusion and anxiety but majestic views of the sunrise, we reached the area where the swing could be found. There were several opposing signs giving us different directions but we eventually found the entrance once we hiked a little hill. Here, a man from our bus, took our money and let us in. The place was empty, not a person in sight. We ran over to the treehouse, where we took endless amount of snaps and videos. There was the original swing plus an extra one as it was so popular with tourists. Obviously we rode both but the original one had awesome views, overlooking Banos and Tungurahua Volcano. In the complex, there was a little zip-line and a restaurant but unfortunately it wasn’t open. However, we had brought a packed breakfast, which we ate on top of the treehouse. During the hour and a half we were here, only a Peruvian family of three joined us. This was totally one of my highlights and I was so glad I could enjoy it with a friend.[006725]

After, we decided to walk back to the town, where we wanted to stop for a coffee, but because it was too early the only coffee shop was closed. We strolled through fields, windy paths in the forest, finding glimpse of different wildlife, and found another platform on a tree look out to the city. Just before our finally decent, we stopped on the cross on the hill, which wasn’t as impressive as night time with it shining in the dark. At the bottom, we chilled in a café with a coffee before starting our afternoon adventure.

Throughout the afternoon, we hired a buggy, driving along the main road to various spots and waterfalls. It was so much fun driving again even if it was at a slower speed. At one of the places along the side of the road, we took a cable car to the other side, hike down to the incredible waterfall, took some photos and ate lunch. On the way back, we ended speaking to a young guy, half in English, half in Spanish, telling us about his life. We kept driving to different places, taking it in turns, and being mesmerised the amazing views of waterfall, rivers, birds and forestry. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go to all the place we wanted as we had only hired it for 3 hours, which the agency recommended to do all the areas. It was a lovely afternoon of walking, driving and seeing some wonders.

In the evening, we ate at a Mexican restaurant, where I had a plate of beans, cheese, salad, guacamole on a tortilla. That night, we decided to just relax and take it easy before going to bed. We were feeling tired after getting up so early in the morning.

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The next day we rose early to enjoy a full day excursion to Puyo, at the edge of The Amazon. At the tour shop, we were picked up amongst a group of tourists wanted to do the same. With the bus packed, we drove about an hour to Puyo, with a spectacular view of The Amazon. Here, we had a break and the guide told us the history of the place and an overview of the rainforest. Then onto our next stop: a rescue centre for animals. We walked around the complex, looking at different Ecuadorian animals and finding out about them. There were many animals I had never seen before with sign with their ironic names. I’m not sure how well the animals were looked after as the area they lived in was dirty and quite compact.

After we headed to Puyo river, changing into wellies and hopping into long canoes paddled by some guides. The river was rough, jumping over rocks and screeching a little. At times, I definitely thought our canoe was going to tip over, where we would fall into the river. Fortunately, this didn’t happen but it was a fun ride down the river.

When we halted at the side of the bank, we climbed out of the boat and walk down a little track to the spot where we would have lunch. We ate a soup, rice, beans and meat for those who weren’t vegetarians plus a traditional sugary drink.

We climbed aboard the bus, which took us to a spot for a hike. We hiked through the river, down windy tracks, covering ourselves with mud. My friend fell knee deep into a muddy hole, where we had to pull her out. On the way, the guide showed us some red stone, which he mixed with water to create a face paint substance, painting all the girls faces. We carried on trekking to a swing rope, where we took it in turns to be flung into the air through tree with a huge drop to forestry. This filled our adrenaline filled heads, which was extremely fun. After another short walk, we reached a waterfall, where we plunged into the cold water taking photos and enjoying the fall. The guide kept flirting with my friend, wanting to carry her and ended up trying to kiss her behind the waterfall, which was visible for everyone to see.

When it was time to leave, we hiked all the way back through the mud and over bridge to the van to change our clothes and warm ourselves up. The last part of the day, we went back to Puyo river, walked over a bridge to visit Quichua indigenous community. We saw a group of children in traditional clothing, where the guide told us about this community. The children spread achiote, which is a natural paint, on our faces with different patterns. We then practiced  the blowpipe: it was a long, thin pipe with arrows slotted in to the top and then one blows into it, aiming at the target. It was definitely harder than it looked. There was a little shop with handmade jewellery and other gift souvenirs to buy. On our tour was a little boy, who decided to pee right in the middle of the shop. He did it discreetly so no-one really noticed but I did.

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By this time, it was dark and it started to rain, showing us it was time to leave and go back to Banos. Back in the town, it was pouring with rain so we ran back to our hostel, not to get too wet. We planned to meet some of the guys from Mancora to go out but unfortunately, I suddenly come down with something, causing my stomach so much pain and needing the toilet every ten minutes. My friend, however, met up with them and enjoyed a night out in Banos.

When I woke up the night day, I felt exhausted with the worst night sleep and not feeling any better. It’s weird for me because I never get ill so this was extremely rare. We had booked to go canyoning in the morning to do some more adrenaline filled activity but I was in no state to do it.

At our meeting time, we went to the tour agency, who told me I couldn’t have a refund. As I didn’t want to waste my money, I thought I would go and see how much I could cope with. I looked extremely pale and ill, and even the person in the shop commented. I bought an energy drink to make me fill stronger as I couldn’t really eat anything.

We walked around the corner to another shop, where we put our sexy equipment on: wet suit, helmet, harness and jacket. Seven of us, along with our two guides hopped in a chiva, which took us to the place, where we would be canyoning. Canyoning, if you don’t know, is where you abseil down waterfalls, getting extremely wet and sliding around.

First, we had a brief safety talk and instructions on how canyoning was going to work. Then, we climbed over rocks and fences to our first spot at the top of a small waterfall. I had done this before so I wasn’t scared and anyway, we had a harness and rope to catch us if we fell.

One by one, we were lowered down the waterfall, jumping against the wall until we fell into the pool of water at the bottom. I kept slipping and sliding as well as trying to get right in the waterfall to make it more challenging. Next there was a long waterfall to abseil down. It was extremely fun and a good way to distract myself from being ill.DSCN4094

After, we dawdled to another section of the waterfall, where we weren’t really  told what we would be doing. Our guide clipped my friend and I together, told us to sit then we were pushed. We slid down the waterfall on our bottom, landing in the water. It was great.

The last part of this adrenaline adventure, we were going to free fall from the top of a high waterfall, then hopefully be stopped by the rope before hitting the bottom. I was extremely excited about this. However, when it was my turn, I looked down and it was high. I was feeling nervous. I had to trust the guides so much that they would catch the rope. 1…2…3… JUMP! Flinging through the air, I screamed but it felt so good. My rope jolted just as I came to the rock. I unclipped my harness, fell into water and joined the others.

Once we had all done the jump, we climbed back up to an area where we could change out of our wetsuits and drink some hot tea. Then we were taken back to the shop. My friend and I went to get some food, before returning to the hostel to collect our bags and go to the bus station. It was packed with people so we had to wait a couple of hours for the next available bus to go to our next destination. The journey was pretty horrific as it was slow and I was unable to go to the toilet and I was in so much pain and all I wanted to do was sleep. When we arrived at the bus terminal in Quito; it was dark outside so we caught a taxi to our hostel in the historical centre. That evening, I didn’t do much except sleep.

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