After a week in the Andes, Banos proved to be a lovely change of scenery. Our time in the Quilotoa Loop was great but I am a warm weather girl at heart and I relished being able to ditch my layers and breath in the balmier air of this town.

We decided after much chopping and changing of plans to follow up a week long sojourn in the Andes with a week in Banos. We had read good things about this tourist town, it is popular due to its thermal baths, massages and beauty treatments and the adventure activities that abound in the surrounding region. Whilst searching for a place to pull up stumps for a while I came across some very positive reviews on Trip Advisor about a Kiwi and Aussie run Hostel, La Casa Verde. Like the Black Sheep Inn that we stayed at prior, La Casa Verde emphasised their efforts to reduce their impact on the environment and that, coupled with the appeal of staying with some expats saw us arrive to Rebecca and Doug’s place with eager expectations.

Our expectations were met and not long after exceeded. Rebecca and Doug themselves proved to be wonderful hosts – How could I not be won over when they produced a jar of vegemite at our first breakfast! The first and only I have come across in about eight months, and in Ecuador of all places! La Casa itself was such an appealing haven of calm. It is situated on a river and the whole feel of the place is that of a home and not a hostel. Our room was wonderful as well with excellent views of the river and mountains. It was extremely spacious and had a big comfy bed that you could listen to the sound of the river at night. I think the sound of this subconsciously reminded us both of our home in Cronulla, where we would always go to sleep with the soothing white noise of the waves. It certainly did have that home away from home feel about it. In fact, even the air in Banos had the same humid grassy freshness that I love about Northern NSW and as this is a place I have spent a large portion of my life when on holidays, that echo of that smell made me feel even more at home in Banos.

Another nice aspect of our time at La Casa was that at many of our breakfasts (and dinners when we had them there) were shared with the other guests. I really valued the communal eating at The Black Sheep Inn, so it was nice that at La Casa we could also spend some time each day chatting to other travellers and hearing their stories.

As for Banos itself, the town was quite nice (and a fair bit more fancy for what we had become used to in Ecuador) and we whiled away some hours in various restaurants there. We caught up with Daphne and Niall (who we came to Banos with from the Black Sheep) for lunch one day. Daphne and Niall had lived and worked in London for seven years and were finally on their way back home to Australia via South America. It was amusing to find out that Daphne was once a Shire girl like myself.

Aside from restaurants and bars, Banos itself did not have many other real draw cards and our attempt to visit one of the bars in town one afternoon quickly became a very bad idea. We had read that the Stray Dog Bar made artisan beers and decided to try one after parting ways with Daphne and Niall. When we entered the bar it was dark and devoid of activity then out of the shadows appeared a skinny, manky looking gringo who wobbled uncertainly behind the bar, vacant eyes upon us. There seemed to be an extremely long pause of silence between the three occupants of the pub uneasily assessing each other from opposite sides of the bar. It didn’t take long for me to realise that something very wrong was up with this dude and I became a little alarmed when he started to walk (or should I say stumble) to the other side of the bar and muttered something mostly unintelligible to Damien and I. He was completely and scarily intoxicated on something other than just alcohol me thinks. After swaying dangerously from side to side he began to lunge towards us in a jerky fashion. Damien and I were awoken from our stunned silence Damien blurted a quick, “Ahh, we’ll be back later” before we about faced and exited stage left post haste. As we walked briskly along the plaza I glanced back a few times and saw that he was swaying behind the bar door, and every now and then peering out around the door at us and then quickly ducking behind the door in a most paranoid and creepy fashion. Well that incident kind of put an end to our desire to stay in town that day and we left for the comfy surrounds of Rebecca and Doug’s place.

Banos as a whole was a quiet time for us where we were mostly content to stay at La Casa Verde either watching videos, reading, writing for our blog or indulging in the odd massage or two. We did have one big day out though with a guide called Oswaldo who Rebecca and Doug organised for us. Oswaldo was extremely cheap for the services he offered ($60 for the whole day!) and it was our favourite day since the Galapagos.

Damien and I had both been keen to visit the Amazon whilst in Ecuador and we had originally considered going on a tour in the Cuyabeno region of the north. However, after a kidnapping occurred in this region whilst we were still in the planning stages of our Amazon adventure we decided it was not a good idea at this time. We also realised that we may have to just miss out on the Amazon altogether this time due to time and money. You can’t do everything unfortunately.

Thus, the opportunity to go to the outskirts of the Amazon Basin in Puyo from Banos for the bargain price of $60 was a nice compromise for us. It wasn’t long after we left Banos with Oswaldo and headed south along the river that the temperature and humidity started to rise. It felt exciting to be seeing this side of Ecuador when all we had really experienced hitherto was cooler and mountainous environments. We stopped off at a viewing point to look at Diablo Waterfall, one of many such waterfalls in the region.

Our next stop was at Tarqui zoo where we were able to view many jungle animals and birds such as lion monkeys, cuppachino monkeys, tapirs, warthogs, ocelots, pumas, jaguar, capybaras (giant guinea pigs and good eating according to Oswaldo!), caimans, parrots, toucans, turtles. There was also a curious little jungle dog who was obviously blind and was free to trot around the zoo. I am pleased to say that on the whole the enclosures were of a decent size.

Our animal capers were not to finish there though as next we were whisked down the Rio Pastaza I a canoe by an indigenous man and we were lucky to see two otters swimming and running along the banks. When we disembarked from our ride down the jungle river we wandered through the rainforest for a while and another local man came running along the path. Seeing us he stopped and plucked a brown fungus off the trunk of one of the trees and gave it to us to try!

At the indigenous centre near the Rio Pastaza we stopped for a lunch of steamed fish and it was the tastiest fish I have dined on in ages! After our bellies were full Oswaldo took us for a walk through the jungle to the site of a lovely waterfall where we stopped and swam for a while. As luck would have it, when we emerged from our jungle walk two rangers had arrived with a young anaconda which they were going to release into the wild. So before they set off to the jungle they let Damien and I have a hold which was a real treat. Having never seen an anaconda before I was surprised to discover how pretty the markings on its skin were.

Oswaldo then took us to a hotel in the jungle which was surprisingly devoid of people other than the owners. I say surprising as the view from this hotel was something to behold, it was positioned on a hill and commanded stunning views of the Amazon Forest and the river. It truly was beautiful.

The evening was fast approaching at this stage so Oswaldo took us to one more place before we commenced the long drive home. He stopped off at a friend’s place and ask if we could walk through their garden as they were growing cocoa trees. This they kindly agreed to and we were shown the inside of the cocoa pods and got to taste the white fleshy seeds they held. Apparently the small brown seeds that are left once the white flesh is removed are what the chocolate is made from. Interestingly, the flowers that the pods grow from actually sprout straight off the bark of the tree and they are very pretty flowers as you would expect from something that can be made into such a tasty treat!

So it was a very full day but one that we both thoroughly enjoyed and would happily recommend to anyone else wanting to opt for an affordable and fun jungle experience.

The day we left Banos to return to Quito we had one more thing to tick off our list so we headed into the local Mercado (market) to sample a local delicacy – cuy. Cuy is the local name for guinea pig and it is a popular dish, often served roasted. The cuy looked decidedly unappetising when viewed being roasted on a stick, but we are always keen to try the weird and the wonderful when it comes to food so we ordered a cuy between us and tucked in. It was a revelation! The skin was very much like pork and the flesh tasted somewhat similar to lamb. All in all it was quite the tasty surprise and a good way to cap off an enjoyable time in Banos.

Like 1 People Liked this
2012 is the year that my fiance, Damien and I took leave of work to see this wonderful world we live in. Our adventures took us to Scandinavia in the winter to view the ethereal Northern Lights, the heat and humidity of Asia for three months, Europe via caravan and now South America. We have seen so many wonderful sights and met so many great people that I know that year of travel will continue to inspire and inform how we live our lives for all the years to come.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply