After climbing Cotopaxi, Jared needed a rest, and I could always use another soak in a hot spring, so Jared and I left Quito for good, and headed south to Baños, Ecuador. As we were approaching Baños, we had an excellent view of Volcan Tungurahua. The volcano erupted in August 2006, and smoke was escaping from the crater while we were there.
Baños was the perfect antidote to crowded, polluted Quito. It is a tranquil mountain town where everything is within walking distance. Baños means baths, and the town gets its names from hot springs heated by the volcano. We went to the baths everyday while in Baños, especially since admission was only $2. The best soak was the one we had after mountain biking 22km (mostly downhill) from Baños to Rio Verde, along the Ruta de las Cascadas, or waterfall trail. We parked our bikes and hiked down to the Pailon del Diablo, Ecuador´s most famous waterfall.
From Baños we headed to the seaside village of Montañita, Ecuador. After an overnight bus from Baños, we had to change buses in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s biggest city. The bus station was so crowded that we couldn’t get in, and once we got in, it was just a mass of a thousand people, with no room to move. The Ecuadorians, who are usually quite nice, thought nothing of pushing us by our backpacks. That was the day we learned to say ¡No me empuje!, or don’t push me. Eventually we realized it was not only Friday, but also All Souls Day, one of the biggest holidays in Latin America. To put it in perspective, the bus station was more crowded than any airport I have ever seen on the day before Thanksgiving. Hundreds of people were ahead of us in line to buy tickets, so eventually we broke down and took a shared taxi (collectivo) the three hours to Montañita. That taxi may have been the best $10 I have ever spent.
Montañita is known for its beautiful beaches and great surf, but we were there at the wrong time. For three days, we didn’t see the sun once. The constant drizzle turned the dirt roads into mud, and our little seaside cabin was always damp. Jared did get to surf a few times, but I was getting a little bored. The sun did finally make an appearance–after we were already an hour south, headed for the Peruvian border. Oh well, at least we ate some tasty street food in Montañita.
Right now we are getting our beach fix in Mancora, Peru, but more on that later.