Ecuador: The Best and the Rest
Banos Travel Blog› entry 11 of 115 › view all entries
Well I´m actually writing this in Peru after the event - but I just wanted to place this entry in my favourite destination in Ecuador whilst covering those places, both rewarding and disappointing, that I haven´t yet written about...
Whatever little Banos lacks in size, it makes up for in personality. We only spent two days there but I would have been much happier if it had been many more.
Under the shadow of the increasingly active Volcan Tungurahua we spent our time watching the fiesta, mountain biking, walking, drinking, dancing and generally just relaxing. I loved it - the place is set up for backpackers but has also managed to retain a palpable sense of its own identity. Banos is set atop a naturally beautiful plateau flanked by mountains and, of course, the rumbling, smoke-spewing enfant terrible that is Tungurahua. If you spend four or five days here, you won´t regret it.
A massive volcanic crater lake and the highlight of the Quilotoa loop. Go early as mist settles in the afternoon and you might not see a thing. Oh and be warned - at that altitude, climbing back up from the edge of the lake is a killer. We did the whole Quilotoa loop in 2 days but 3 or 4 would have been easier going. If you get a clear day, the scenery on the journey between Latacunga and Zumbhua is phenomenal. Chugchilian and the Cloud Forest Lodge in particular are highly recommended for more chill out time on the loop.
The city itself does not compare kindly with Latacunga, Otavalo or Cuenca and we had two shocking meals here (probably our bad luck more than any kind of general cuisine malaise). The Nariz del Diablo train ride was five hours of boredom packed onto cattle cars with hundreds of other tourists followed by two hours of decent, but not exceptional, scenery on the Devil´s Nose section itself.
You can´t ride on the roof of the train any more following the decapitation of two Japanese tourists who had stood up to take photos and didn´t see an electric wire hung across the track at exactly the wrong level. The electric company apparently neglected to inform the train company that they had done this... good work fellas.
Volcan Chimborazo was cloudy when we went up, still high from the views at Cotopaxi, and we only got partial shots of the top. this capped off a pretty disappointing stay in poor old Rioshambles...
All of the guide books wet their pants about the beauty of Cuenca, but I just didn´t get it. Yes, we went when a lot of the city was being dug up for one reason or other and, of course, some conniving bastard stole my day pack (it was in a cafe called Casa de Mujeres off the Plaza San Francisco by the way). However, even before all pof that happened, I still thought that Cuenca was nothing more than a nice-looking town, not even a small patch on the casual beauty of Quito.
Anyway, I´m closing the book right there on Ecuador, and three amazing weeks of polar ups and downs that have kicked off my big trip in some style. I would strongly recommend the place to anyone who´s a bit jaded and in need of a bit of colour and passion in their life. You could do it as a three (or even two) week holiday. The diversity of the country for its diminuitive (in S American terms) size is astonishing.
You can climb volcanoes, negotiate rain forest, explore big cities, go to indigenous markets adn spend time on the beach. And all this amongst people who, with a few (thieving scumbag) exceptions, were friendly, curious about travellers and live life (whatever their financial circumstances) in a liberal, easy going fashion that appears to be very Latin American.