Monday, March 28, 2016


After staying in Quito longer than I planned, I was ready to make some ground and stay places a bit less time. I managed that in a few places, and not so much in others, but either way I finished up Ecuador with some pretty cool activities and some nice relaxing as well. My first stop ending up being Baños.

When I headed out of Quito, my planned destination was Quilotoa crater lake. I took off in the morning with a route that started on roads and then turned off to a dirt path at some point, circled around the crater where I'd stay for the night, and then returned back to pavement to take me back to the highway. But as the turnoff approached, I was in turmoil. I'd heard great things about how beautiful the crater was, but I knew that if I went I would probably just show up, take a few pictures, and keep riding. After considering the clouds coming in that looked like they were going to start dropping rain, turning my dirt ride into a mud ride, I rode right on past the turn and kept going south. On the schedule after Quilotoa was Baños, so I rode straight for there, dodging the approaching rain clouds by sticking to the highway and keeping my speed up.

I still got the opportunity to take one of the side roads that Sylvain and Court from Freedom Bike Rental had given me by crossing over a river and riding on the other side from the main road. This one was mostly paved, though narrow, and had nice curves for the length of it as it followed the river. On the way in I saw an "adventure park" which had some ziplining and a few other activities, and I paused to decide what I wanted to do. At the beginning of the trip I would have jumped at the opportunity. By this point... I feel bad saying it, but I'm a little jaded to things like that. Some things are definitely still worth doing, but ziplining isn't one that I think I'll be doing much unless the views are phenomenal.

So I continued into town to settle into a hostel - which wasn't hard, as about half the buildings in town seemed to be hostels, while the other half were split between trinket shops or massage parlors. I was immediately turned off by the touristic vibe to the city, and decided I was only going to stay one night. So with that in mind, I went out to take advantage of my time.

I took a short walk around town and enjoyed the views - Baños is set down between two mountains, just on the edge of a huge canyon that a river runs through. If you can get around the hostel and massage signs, you can get some pretty good views. I decided I was sore enough to warrant it, and made my way to one of the massage parlors to relax my back. One thing about all this riding is that my shoulders and lower back develop some nasty tension, and every massage I've gotten on this trip has involved some level of surprise from the person giving the massage at how many knots I have, or how tight they are.

One of the few views in town that don't include a sign for massages or a hostel. There really are some great views of the mountains around though.
Once I finished my massage, I went across the street to Cafe Hood and got a somewhat expensive but very good meal, including an Argentinian Malbec and a brownie with ice cream for dessert - quite the treat. I then followed that up with a trip to the namesake of the town, the hot springs. I spent about an hour going back and forth between three pools, one too hot to stay in for more than five minutes, one cold, and one that was a perfect warm bath temperature.

As they started closing up the baths, I dried off and headed back to the hostel to call it an early night. In the morning I woke up and headed to a nearby restaurant to get some breakfast. I usually do a light breakfast, but every once in a while I'll eat something a little more substantial. This time I decided to get some pancakes and fruit - and man was that substantial.
Seriously. There's like half a pineapple on here.
 The reason I'd gotten up early was that I wanted to hit one more thing before I left town - the swing on the edge of the world. I'd seen some pretty cool pictures taken on that swing, and I'd decided I wanted to get some in my full motorcycle gear. So I headed up the cobblestone switchbacks to the top of the nearby mountain, parked the bike, and paid the entrance fee (though I ended up paying extra because he had no change). And then I asked one of the 2 other people up there to take my picture. Unfortunately... this guy wasn't so great at framing the pictures the way everyone else did.
Not a super useful picture for me. There were about 10 or 15 of me here or farther back.

Better, but still not nearly as good as the ones I saw online.
By the time I checked the pictures and saw how bad they were, I was the only one up there. Not wanting to delay any longer, I walked back to the bike and headed back down the mountain to head to the next location.

Baños was good for a night of relaxing, though I don't think I would have wanted to stay longer than that. But Cuenca on the other hand, my next destination - now that was a place that I settled into a bit more.

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