Chasing Adventure and Adrenaline in Banos, Ecuador
The journey crossing the border from Colombia to Ecuador by bus – despite making me really nervous to do alone – ended up being a breeze. After spending a night in a hotel on the border of Colombia, I hailed a taxi to the border and before I knew it, I was walking across a bridge; out of one country and into another in under two minutes. A little chit chat with immigration officials, passport stamped and it was sorted. Soon enough, I was on a bus out of there.
Sometimes I wind up in countries or cities without really knowing why I want to go there in the first place. Sometimes, it’s on the way to somewhere else, other times there’s one place or one activity in particular that draws me there. Sometimes, I’m just open to discovering whatever it is that I end up seeing. In the case of Ecuador, I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was small and that I wanted to spend maybe a month or less, but I had no idea the beauty that it would hold. I ended up spending six weeks in this little country and one of my favorite spots was Banos.
A bus from Quito to Banos will take you down some of the windiest (and nauseating: if you’re prone to car sickness like me, have a bag + take some anti-nausea medication) and most mind blowingly beautiful mountain landscapes until, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains in all directions, you’ll find yourself in a small town called Banos.
Banos has a little bit of everything, so almost anyone could find something to enjoy here. It’s known by the backpacker community for an endless amount of adrenaline-pumping activities perfect for the sporty and adventurous. It is also filled with spa treatments at low prices, cute cafes, hot springs, waterfalls and a pretty active nightlife.
At the very top of my list of things that I absolutely had to do in Banos was Casa del Arbol, the infamous tree house swing that swings you out over the mountains. So we caught the bus that would take us up the mountain, handed over $2USD for the entrance fee and found a grassy area with not one, but FOUR, swings! One swing was placed on either side of the tree house and two smaller swings were placed off to the side for anyone who wanted to work their way up to the “big swings” (or who just wanted to give them all a go!).
Now, if you don’t know, I have a huge fear of heights. I mean, I could feel vertigo just looking down from only 10ft. But I try to get over it by doing things involving heights every now and then – zip lining, climbing a volcano, (small) cliff jumping, that sort of thing. This time, I was going to sit my ass on that swing that had essentially no protection from falling off and let some man who seemed to find way too much enjoyment in grabbing people’s feet so they spun crazily in circles push me out into the abyss.
Naturally, my palms were sweating even at the back of the line and by the time it was my go, I was shaking in my sandals. So, I took a seat and walked it back as far as it would go to be given a massive push and swung out over the hillside. In reality, if you were to fall off the swing, I’m pretty sure you would live. It’s more of a grassy slope beneath you rather than a drop off of a cliff.
Even so, it took me a minute to open my eyes and I couldn’t contain the scream that launched out of my throat when the man grabbed my foot and made me spin around in terrifying circles. Even my friend Guillermo felt the need to offer words of encouragement as I soared through the air again, yelling ‘you’re doing great!’. It’s actually not very scary at all, I’m just a wimp.
In the end, it was incredible – such a lively feeling soaring through the air and incredible views all around – and I planted my feet back on flat ground with white knuckles, sore hands from holding on so tight and the obligatory photo that you just have to have.
As always, no trip is complete without chasing a waterfall or two, so the next day we hit the road to find Pailon del Diablo – or, Devil’s Cauldron, – a massive waterfall at the end of the highway of waterfalls. For this, you can opt to rent a mountain bike and bike the 10 or so miles that will take you past a bunch of beautiful waterfalls, ziplines and cable cars, or you can hop on a bus that will take you straight there.
Once you arrive, you get to do a little hike to see the waterfall itself and can walk to the highest point of the stairs and get soaked as the water sprays down over you. Which we did, of course. Afterwards, caught in the rain, we huddled around the fireplace in the lodge and made friends with the resident cat – as you do.
A few massages and a dip in the hot springs later and it was finally time to say goodbye to Banos and catch a bus to warmer places.