Banos (Ban-ios) is a town of about 15 000 regular inhabitants; on the weekend that typically surges as the Ecuadorians pour in for their weekend getaway, not too mention the gringos (foreigners). Banos is 1800m above sea level and luscious green peaks surround it. Tungurahua volcano is an active volcano just behind the green hills of Banos. It sleeps most of the time but the town does have an evacuation plan for its residents as I saw the school kids demonstrate a ‘dry run’. Each home has an ‘emergency kit’ just in case. The last time the town was evacuated was 1999 but it was relatively harmless as the west wind usually saves Banos from any real damage with the exception of some ash cover. The volcano has continued to stay active though and it is constantly monitored. There was a violent eruption in 2006 but did not effect Banos really.
Banos is also famous for its taffy (melcocha) as there are several candy shops selling it. You can witness the men making it storefront all day as they pull and twist the taffy from a wood stub on the wall.
It’s interesting to notice that there are always several tiendas (shops) selling the exact same things right beside each other, literally. There are the candy stores, the juice stands in the market selling jugo fresco (freshly squeezed juice), meat vendors, vegetable vendors, toy vendors. It’s bizarre but it works apparently.
I have to say I love how people just sit, and they sit outside, on their stoop or on the sidewalk. They just sit and take it in. I have observed this ‘sitting’ in many different cultures and I am afraid that this is a crucial component missing in our society today – to just sit and be. Can you take a moment today to sit and be? It really is so peaceful.
I spent my days here taking Spanish lessons of course. I also hiked up the phenomenal hills and on the many trails for the spectacular vistas. On the weekend, I went canyoning on the Rio Blanco, a personal favourite adventure of mine as I have done it in a few other countries. I also hired a bike for a day. One of the ‘things’ to do here is to ride along el Rio Pastaza. I rode 20 kms along the river stopping to take in waterfalls, ziplines across the gorge, cable cars and beauty. Then I ended in the town of Rio Verde where there were many Ecuadorian enjoying their Sunday lounging along the river. I grabbed a truck back to Banos with my bike on top. It was a good day.
Banos has plenty to offer, and it relies mostly on tourism as its main industry. There are a surplus of rivers to choose from as well as waterfalls, and thermal baths. The massive Andean mountain range gives birth to scores of rivers. In fact, Ecuador has one of the world’s highest concentrations of rivers per square mile. Banos is a mecca for adventure sports – hiking, mountain biking, rafting, canyoning, rock climbing, trekking.