Home > Ecuador > Baños, Ecuador: Thermal Springs and Adventure, (Part 1)

Baños, Ecuador: Thermal Springs and Adventure, (Part 1)

We leave the Pan American Highway, still remembering the spectacular views which accompanied us for about two hours, with the Avenue of the Volcanoes displaying its beauty on a sunny morning, the majestic peaks piercing a bright blue sky…

Now we turn east, bypassing the bustling commercial city of Ambato, on Ecuador’s central Andean Region. A few scattered clouds come and go, while we start getting clear views of the highly active colossus, Mt. Tungurahua, with its perfect cone shape and steep slopes, as if signaling the exact point of destination for us today.  Willy drives our vehicle skillfully as my friend Ivan and myself chat away, praising the splendor of Ecuador’s geography….

We drive by quaint countryside filled with terraced fields of grain, vegetables, potatoes and maize. Each turn of the road provides a new and more picturesque sight.  We pass the small Salasaca village, home to the namesake Indian group, which has lived in the area for centuries, since the Inca days… They exhibit their colorful tapestries on their houses’ doors and roadside stalls… Next is Pelileo, a small village, formerly quiet and sleepy, now converted into Ecuador (and perhaps South America’s) “capital of the Jeans industry”… For almost two decades, the inhabitants here took the fabrication of jeans as their main activity and enterprise and, nowadays, especially on weekends, the place teems with visitors from Ecuador and some foreign countries, looking for the best and most trendy blue jean, “made in Pelileo”….

As we continue the 50 minute ride towards the east, destination Baños,  we start slowly descending in altitude. To our right appears the Patate Valley, narrow and lush, almost subtropical valley, covered with fields of citrus fruits, sugar cane as well as apples, pears, peaches, plums and some coffee plants… the picturesque Patate river winds through the highly photogenic valley… Soon the Patate will meet and mix with the Chambo river, coming from further south, and both will form the mighty Pastaza River, one of the Amazon River’s most important tributaries…. We stop to watch the actual union of the two rivers under a road bridge and witness the birth of  the new river which will descend, roaring past cascades and canyons, down the eastern slopes of the Andes, into the Amazon rainforest….

A few minutes away is the city of Baños (“Baths” in Spanish), officially baptized as “Baños de Agua Santa” (meaning “Holy Water Baths”)… The town is relatively small in size and population, in spite of its tremendous growth as a tourist attraction in Ecuador.  Yet, it is fabulously picturesque, nestled at the bottom of a perfect bowl-shaped depression, not quite a valley, surrounded by steep hills and cliffs, those on the right hand side, the actual slopes of the giant Tungurahua volcano, over 18.500 feet of elevation above sea level.  The weather is pleasant and a spring-like temperature calls for just a light cotton shirt or T-shirt to be comfortable…  Downtown Baños teems with souvenir shops, selling “tagua” (the vegetable “ivory”) handicrafts, balsa wood figures and many of the varied arts and crafts for which Ecuador is famous..  Almost on every corner there is a store selling (and providing live demonstrations of the elaboration) of the sweet “melcochas”, a local delicacy, made of sugar cane syrup, well worth not only a munch but also to photograph how they are hand-made…

The main square is dominated by the Basilica in honor to Our Lady of Agua Santa, her image presiding the main altar, while impressive paintings cover the church’s walls, depicting the miracles of the venerated Virgin, who is attributed having spared the city of Baños from major damage resulting from the earthquakes and, sometimes, fierce eruptions of their temperamental neighbor, the Tungurahua Volcano, which have shattered vast territories around it, yet always spared Baños from destruction….

And, of course, one of the city highlights (actually the highlight), is the Thermal Baths for which it is famous and which has lured for decades (and continues to attract), hundreds of thousands of national and international visitors into the area.  But I will have to tell you more about this on the second part of this story, to be posted next week…..

Categories: Ecuador
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: