As you know, we have been on the road with Wanderbus Ecuador, and are cramming in as much as we can into a two week timetable, because we have a flight to the Galapagos Islands coming up soon (eeeek). Being on a tight schedule such as ours, could easily be a pain in the behind, and cause us to skip much of the country, or rush through it. Taking public transit would have definitely forced our hand in this, as entire days can get eaten up in travel. Trekking along with Wanderbus however, has allowed us to see so much, that otherwise would have had been forfeited. On a local bus you make dozens of stops, often have to change busses, and are enslaved to the bus company’s schedule. With our little engine that could, we’ve been able to save so much time, that packing it all in, is effortless. Not having to plan our next move, has allowed us to use what precious time we have on mainland Ecuador to its fullest. I’ve sputtered on about time for a whole paragraph, so that telling you just how much we stuffed into our two day escapade in Baños de Agua Santa would carry that much more weight.
Baños is a bit of a smörgåsbord of activities, and sights. In other words, it’s a little random. Just in and around town you have a massive waterfall, thermal baths, a dinosaur park (shrugs), a volcano, a giant swing, paragliding, lots of karaoke bars (yes random right?) and tours of la ruta de las cascadas (road of waterfalls; 12 waterfalls on a 20 km stretch, how wild!). Then if you venture a little further outside of Baños, you can do white water rafting, canopy tours, canyoning, annnnd you can jump right into the Amazon Rainforest! Imagine that, you go from sweater weather to full blown jungle in just a couple of hours. Plus nearby Puyo boasts a monkey sanctuary. So as you can seeee, there is A LOT to do. Obviously two days, is simply not enough, but here we were, trying to figure out how to make the best of our limited stay.
After the frigid temperatures at the Quilotoa Lagoon, defrosting in milder weather was very welcomed, and much needed. Sweater weather aside, not needing a down filled jacket was good enough. Though we were met with rain during most of our stay, we packed our rain ponchos, and went about our business.
On day one we managed to squeeze in la ruta de las cascadas, the thermal baths, plus some sightseeing in town, and a little bit of shopping (I actually bought a toque, imagine that). The waterfall tour is not only awesome, but super duper cheap. For $3 a head, this is definitely one of the cheapest tours we’ve ever done, and will likely ever do. You spend a good three hours on the road to boot! There are other things that will cost extra along the way, like a bit of zip lining and a cable car, but those are very cheap as well. For the zip lining, you can get a 2 for 1 deal at $10, and for the cable car, it’s a $2 ride; they aren’t anything super impressive, but it’s a nice way to add a little umph to your tour. The ziplining is actually quite cool, because you can choose several positions in which to zip, like the superman, seated, or even upside down! The waterfalls you see along the route of the tour are really something too. Some are tinne tiny, and others are absolutely enormous. Pailon del Diablo the biggest of them all, is the final stop and quite the finale. We could have easily spent another 1-2 hours there, as there is a long walking path to reach the bottom, but we had to cut our venturing short as the tour only allotted us 40 minutes to explore (boooo). We did get some amazing shots in at least. Once we returned, we grabbed some lunch and then headed for the baths. Also very cheap, I think it was under $3 a person, it was a nice way to unwind, and relax those tired muscles. Following this by our walk around town to take more pictures, was the perfect way to wrap up the day.
On day two, we had a very early start, and dragged our butts over to the bus station. An hour and a half later, we arrived in Puyo, time to see some monkeys! We had read and heard some amazing things about the sanctuary located there, one blog even described the animals to be free roaming, and extremely friendly (as they were formerly pets), so we were bursting at the seams with thoughts of actually interacting with our closest animal relatives; I mean we even have a monkey on our logo, that’s how much we love them! We were a little surprised when we arrived to see the monkeys were in fact all caged, but given the blog had been written in 2011, a lot can change in seven years I suppose. Regardless, the experience was unforgettable, and knowing that the sanctuary’s efforts are to rehabilitate and release the monkeys, it sort of made sense to limit their interaction with humans. Having no more than 50 monkeys at a time also made Ecuador’s smallest sanctuary that much more credible. I imagine having time to dedicate to such a small number of them, makes the rehabilitation process more efficient. The centre also takes on volunteers (I think it was at $130/w, which includes room and board), which seems like it would be an excellent way to spend some time in Puyo. We actually chatted with some of the volunteers for almost an hour, and they had nothing, but incredible things to say about the sanctuary and their experiences there. Paseo los Monos was very much a highlight for us on our Wanderbus adventure. We’ve even thought about going to volunteer ourselves. Wouldn’t you? Technically you can do the whole sanctuary in an hour or so, so with your bus rides, it’s only a half day trip, but we doubled back on the animals and hung out with the volunteers, spending the whole day. Once we finally made our way back to Baños, we arrived just in time to catch a glimpse of several paragliders set off into the sunset. Wrapping up the day in perfection is kind of a Baños staple.
Obviously you should get on the Wanderbus already and check out all of these fantastic sights for yourself. Remember, your pass is good for a year! So take your time...especially in Baños. This place and its surroundings can keep you busy for weeks. If we had more time, we would have definitely done more, especially getting into the Amazon for a tour there. Ecuadorian crocodiles would have been amazing to see, I’m sure. Along with all the other species we could have caught a glimpse of. I’m still dying to see a Macaw in the wild, and I’m very very eager to see an Ocelot at some point. Animals are obviously our thing, as is ecotourism, and if it’s your thing too...don’t miss out. Ecuador is where it’s at. In such a small nation, you get mountains, volcanoes, the amazon, beaches, major cities with incredible history, indigenous culture and so much more. It’s a complete package. Speaking of packages, don’t forget to visit www.wanderbusecuaodr.com to check out what travel pass is right for you. You can do it all or just a portion, the choice is yours. Be wise, travel flexible!