Ruta de las Cascadas: The road from Baños toward the Amazon

Finally, we’ve caught up to writing about Baños and our adventures in the most touristic town in Ecuador!  We promise not to mention the volcano anymore!

One Saturday we decided to rent bikes all day for $6 each.  From the town of Baños the main road heads east and downhill to Puyo, which is considered to be the edge of the jungle.  While Puyo is 60km away from Baños, it is almost entirely downhill, making it a realistic day’s bike ride for someone who bikes often.  We do not bike often, at least since leaving Arizona, so we didn’t make it all the way to the jungle.

On the road!

We got our bikes in town and cruised down the hill.  The river flowed at our side carving a canyon that weaved down through the mountains.  Most of the way you are riding on the road with the cars, but sometimes you ride on the scenic road around the tunnels.  On these roads we were usually all alone, so we took fun pictures with the green hills in the background. Along the way you bike through a tunnel, past a dam, and then come to the first waterfall.  The first falls you can see fine from the road and there is a cable car and a slow-seeming zipline to the other side, if you’re so inclined.

You can cable car or zipline to the other side.

The air became sticky as we rolled farther and farther down the hill.  We started dripping sweat and feeling that light-headedness you get from sitting in the sun too long.  I saw a shiny bright blue butterfly, and the largest wasp I have ever seen.  People sat around under trees and if they moved, moved sluggishly.  This journey to the edge made us very excited for later excursions deeper into the Amazon.

Nearing the end of our ride we came to the biggest of the waterfalls, the Cascada Pailón del Diablo, which was at the end of a short trail.

Cascada Pailón del Diablo.

It was $1.50 each to enter and the trail was pretty rough after biking for a few hours.  Many Ecuadorian women came wearing high heels and other great hiking footwear; most foreigners wore the standard safari gear.  We like to laugh at other people’s attire, since we always look like bums.  Once at the bottom the falls were hidden in a little cove.  The mist rose from the pool and the sun made multiple rainbows around us.  We climbed up a trail that had a one meter (under 4 feet) high ceiling, slippery from the mist.  After crawling through this up about 30 more meters (100ft) you emerge behind the falls, and you get soaking wet.  It was just what we needed after a long day in the equatorial sun.  Lucky we had our waterproof camera (Thanks Mom and Dad) and the rest of our gear was in ziplock bags.

Behind the falls!

After we made the exhausting hike back up to our bikes, we rode a little father down and accidentally passed the last falls.  We missed the turn and went for the best downhill ride yet.  The problem was that we didn’t have it in us to go all the way to Puyo-the next spot with busses after the one we had passed.  So we turned around and walked our bikes back about a mile to the final waterfall we missed.  We decided we didn’t need to spend another $2 to hike down to this waterfall so instead we drank a beer at the bar at the start of the waterfall trail.  After about 15 minutes a tour van pulled up, half full of people that were too lazy to do the trip on bikes.  For $1.50 each they gave us a ride back to Baños, bikes on top, blasting salsa music from the sound system.  We were tired and sunburnt and didn’t even make it all the way to Puyo, but we still felt accomplished.

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