After a day of resting back in Latacunga, I reevaluated my money situation and realized that I was down to a measly $300 in my pockets, which goes a long way if you're spending it on day to day expenses, but Banos would inevitably drain every bit I had. Oh well! I can eat nothing for several days just to have some fun!
Like all bus stops in Ecuador, I had no idea what time a bus arrives because there are no schedules posted anywhere except the main terminal, or which buses stop on a particular route. After seeing 4 buses pass in 30 minutes one that said BANOS finally arrived and of I was!
The bus ride is about 2 hours into the main part of Banos. This is the same bus that goes to Coca since Banos is en route. Once you leave Latacunga, you’re able to see a nearby active volcano called Tungurahua. You can also summit this volcano, but it is not as popular as Cotopaxi because its much tougher and requires some good experience. The last eruption occurred on 26th of April 2011 since it became active in 1999.
Once in banos, we went on tour shopping and settled on rafting, canyoning (is this even a word?) and a bike rental for $67.00 USD. It was great to be on the freedom of two wheels again! I could pedal my way around the world if I had the monetary support to do so!
Banos is well known for sugar cane derived candies. This is basically caramel without the butter. They lap it over a prong to get it to be nice and chewy. But even then, the candy is quite hard to chew on without losing a few teeth due to the caramel being so sticky.
Before any real riding, you need some fuel. And by fuel I mean a He-Man sized lunch! I distinctively remember how delicious this was! Eggs, grilled steak, avocado, a seafood mixed rice and a side salad.
Back home I have a few quality bikes that I really beat on and they break from time to time if I don’t keep up on the maintenance. Being a rental, I should have known better because at the bottom of the hill and a little bit beyond the dam, the derailer for the rear shifter decided to commit suicide by jamming itself into the spokes and ended up shearing itself off. Several minutes of road side repair, I managed to get the bike working again with a pair of plyers and brute force, but it was stuck in 1 gear….the most difficult gear. God damn….. That’s quite alright though, it just means that I have to go fast!
Overall the bike ride was very relaxing. I tried to turn the ride into a serious pedal-a-thon since I’d been physically dormant for such a long time now. I made a quite a few stops to just really enjoy the nature around me. Something I’ve not done the whole time I was in Banos, minus the short time I was in Coca.
There are several tunnels that carve through the mountains. Theyre about ¼ mile long and have no bike lanes so it’s kind of scary as a bus trucks through it and you only have 2-3 feet of clearance to hide.
On this bridge you can do something called a swing jump. It’s a variation of a bungee jump. The main difference being that the cord isn’t elastic. Unfortunately it was closed by the time we got there. The bridge in the background would be where you jump off of.
On the other side was a garden that led to a waterfall, but like the swing jump, was closed at this hour. Instead there was a trail to the left of the garden and I just blindly followed it not knowing where it went.
I thought the trail would lead somewhere, but it just kept ascending. Mind you, we are now across the river, and ascending the mountain across the river. I had no idea how we were going to get back, but hey, what’s the worst that could happen?
While climbing to the top Cristhian caught a cramp. I jogged up to the top and waited for him. It turned out that there was a small village at the top with a bar. Man this ice cold cola never tasted so good!
Riding back was a real challenge. It was all uphill for about 7 miles and I pounded the bike in high gear and luckly the altitude was reasonable at 5,000 feet so breathing was not too difficult since I had the legs for riding.
Cristhian on the other hand, not being a bike rider started to cramp badly and he was too fatigued to really push it hard. I was having a lot of fun pounding the bike up a hill so I would stop and wait for him every 1/2 mile or so.
Some pictures along the way…
The last 2 miles, Cristhian was done and we ended up pushing the bikes the rest of the way home.
Right outside of the bike rental, his leg becomes useless and I had to buy him some bengay equivalent to stop the cramping. It got so bad that he ended up taking a taxi 3 blocks to the hotel!
Just a mural of a hedgehog on the wall where the hotel was located.