Baños is undoubtedly the adventure capital of Ecuador and having been quite the tourist since travelling alone, this central region, South of Quito was a great opportunity to explore.
Situated in the Ecuadorean highlands just under 2000m, the rugged, undulating terrain provides the perfect release for those hunting adrenaline. Trying not to miss out on anything that was on offer I jumped straight in (quite literally) with canyoning down the many waterfalls of the main river through the valley.
Taking advantage of the weather, canyoning soon transitioned into a steady run around town that was certainly impaired by the rise back to altitude. One benefit of the mountainous ground underfoot was the ability to undertake some hill training, adding a bit of speed in for the first time in a number of weeks which was a welcome change.
Baños opened up a multitude of cross training opportunities that stretched further than just running. Primarily in the form of hiking and cross training, there would never be a quiet moment – especially as everywhere you turned, another local was looking to sell you an organised tour or a massage.
The adventure didn’t stop with canyoning: after a hard run up the last mile of the bordering mountains, I was met with a light zephyr and sunshine over Casa del Arbol (tree house) accompanied with the swing off the edge of the world.
This allowed for the perfect picture opportunity, swinging off into the clouds in front of one of Ecuadors largest active volcanoes. This was followed with another hike, this time down the steep face, through local homes and agricultural land back to Baños.
Though high recommendation I cycled the 20km scenic road out of the main town towards the famous large waterfalls which crashed overhead as awe struck tourists braved the claustrophobic caves to clamber up to the fully immersed view point.
From the large waterfalls I took a risk and wavered on towards Puyo, a local town 60km from Baños. This was a fairly speculative decision which, with the added altitude and endless uphill climbs was probably not worth the endeavour. Given a large, heavy mountain bike, the terrain did not quite match the bike’s description.
Nonetheless, I made it along the quite roads to Puyo, having the expansive valley and river to accompany me all the way as the clouds dropped and the rain descended.
The Amazon Rainforest
North East of Baños lies the Ecuador’s region of the Amazon rainforest, through which runs the Napo river, one of the sources to the Amazon River.
I entered deep through rugged dirt roads, greeted with outrageous levels of humidity. Trekking through the forest brought us right up close with the animals of the Amazon, including snakes, tarantulas and monkeys.
This was once again another chance to experience the simple way of life. Ecuador is home to 46 indigenous tribes, of which many inhabit the shores of the Napo river.
To reach these secluded regions, we proceeded up river to meet some of the last Quechuan (or Ketchuan in some regions of Ecuador) families and communities. It was to all of our surprise the levels of development seen within the community. A sparkling medical centre, equipped with medicines and equipment to treat most common illnesses. This was all due to the help of the Yanchana Lodge which I was staying with; a non profit organisation which takes the proceeds from tourists and repatriates them straight back into the local communities helping to created a better standard of living though education, healthcare and other investment projects.
Moving along the river once more, the developed indigenous habitat seen with the previous community withered away leading us to trek off the shore deeper into the Amazon. Here we met with one of the last wholly native families from this region.
Their homes were wooden structures on stilts. This helped to combat flooding which was unfortunately common and often ruined the carefully cultivated surrounding land which provided all the food for the micro community.
Here, we experienced a special soul cleansing experience. This involved a large cigar and mint leaves which when brushed against the Body would combat the smoke of the cigar. These specific traditions are only found in the last few remaining Quechuan provinces and provides another captivating experience of local Amazon life.