Thursday, April 8, 2010

Banos, Ecuador

Luckily for us the town of Banos is named for thermal baths, and not bathrooms.  Upon our arrival we also learned that after the Galapagos Islands, it is the most visited place in Ecuador.  A big difference is that here, most of the visitors are Ecuadorian.  Most of them seemed to be here for the Easter weekend, and the place was hopping.

The center of activity was the Basilica, where on the day before Easter we found Jesus holed up in a glass casket.  He was still there Sunday afternoon so I guess it was just a model.  The church was interesting in that the walls were covered with large paintings depicting miracles attributed to the virgen of the holy waters, a local deity.  Apparently by calling out her name in a tough situation you can escape car crashes, volcanoes, burning hotels, and the like.

We enjoyed soaking in the thermal pools and walking around soaking in the scenery, both natural and human.  We rented bikes and rode about 20km (mostly downhill) alosng the "route of the waterfalls" where the canyon and waterfall scenery were very impressive indeed, especially the "devil's cauldron" which we hiked down to see up close and personal.  After hiking back to the top we got our bikes on top of a bus and were in downtown again in 30 minutes - how convenient!

One thing we did see in Banos which we had been looking for since our arrival in Ecuador - cuy, or roasted Guinea Pig.  Tana has been going on for months about how we are going to eat some of these.  This point of view suddeenly changed when we were face to face (or face to tooth) with the roasted critters.  "There is NO WAY I am eating one of those!"

On Monday we enjoyed the deserted nature of the town, as virtually all the other tourists had gone home.  It was quite a large and welcome change.

Next, we head south towards the historic city of Cuenca.

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