Banos, which pretty much sits smack in the middle of Ecuador, is a popular tourist town, both with gringos and Ecuadorians. People are attracted to the thermal baths from which it takes its name (no, it’s not named after the bathroom, though every time we saw the city name included in a sign, such as the one that read “Civil Registry of Banos,” we had a good chuckle), as well as the splendid scenery around the town, which includes an active volcano as well as many, many waterfalls.
Riding bikes along the route of the waterfalls, a road leading from Banos towards the jungle town of Puyo, is a favorite activity, and we weren’t immune to its charms. Although I have to say that almost getting squashed by a load of paving stones that a dump truck tried to unload on us wasn’t my favorite moment.
No, the best part was stopping at the Devil’s cauldron, an immensely powerful waterfall that you could observe from various platforms and bridges as well as go behind for an up-close and very wet look.
As for the baths, well, I’ll take Papallacta any day. On an evening visit to the baths, Jeff was the only one of us to venture in. Personally, I just don’t like pretending to be a sardine and having other people I don’t know, most of whom are wearing much too small bathing suits, touch me. But hey, that’s just me. Apparently lots of other people find it to be extremely enjoyable.
So while we did take in the tourist highlights of Banos, what we really enjoyed about the town were the small things.
Like the store called “No somos Chinos … pero estamos de promocion,” which translates to “we are not chinese, but we are on sale.”
And the streets filled with taffy shops, where young men slung long strings of taffy up onto a nail in the doorframe and then stretched it out over and over and over.
And the shacks that sold pure sugar cane, which people chewed or drank by the liter. After trying it both ways, we decided we prefer the chewing rather than the drinking, though either way makes your teeth feel as if they are rotting.
And the crazy fools who jump off the bridge in town while local people watch and wonder what they hell they are doing and the local cops provide pointers to nervous jumpers while making their rounds.
And the oh so weird and wonderful church museum filled with items that people have donated either as a means of asking for a favor from the Virgin of the Holy Water or in thanks for one granted.
Really, is it any wonder Banos is such a popular town?