This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to get out of the heat and smog of Guayaquil and into the Sierra region of Ecuador to a city called Baños. For those of you who know me well, it will be completely obvious to you after reading this as to why I have fallen madly in love with this city.
Nestled between the mountains and volcanoes, 5,955 feet up, rests this haven for adventure lovers, nature enthusiasts and gringos.
In neighboring towns live many typical Sierra indigenous people, wearing the straw hats and wool ponchos you often picture when you think about Ecuador. These people are so beautiful and unique looking. They have very round faces, wide eyes and smooth tan skin.
The city is named Baños de Agua Santa because it is believed the Virgin Mary appeared near a waterfall nearby.
The city itself is beautiful and exciting, with old cobblestone roads, and filled with amazing vistas of the mountains. And it has the most wonderfully fresh temperature, a great contrast to the heat I've become accustomed too.
From the city there are many hiking, canoeing and rafting trips to take. As well as trips into the Amazon jungle where you can stay with tribes for 3 to 4 days!
From here you can climb the Chimborazo, an inactive volcano, the highest mountain in Ecuador, and the point on the Earth's surface farthest from the Earth's center. It is coveted among hikers to be one of the best hikes in the world (how I would love the chance to do it!!!)
There also is access to Llanganates National Park (which sadly I didn't get to see).
You also can do more practical day trips like I did such as canyoning down waterfalls, or canopying Superman style over a mountain river!
I'm not going to play down these events.
Canyoning was amazingly fun. Basically you have to use a rope to walk down a waterfall. The guide holds onto your rope at the top, and you have to balance and use the tension to get down smoothly. We had to go one at a time, and since everyone was too scared, I volunteered to go first. I did the first short climb down, about 8 feet, then the guide told me what we had to do next. I was standing with him at the edge of a waterfall which was probably about 40 feet high. And he explains to me that I have to get down to the edge and on the count of three I'm going to jump……
I looked down under me, and looked back up at the stranger who I was trusting completely. Normally this would scare me to death but I knew I was completely safe, so after making a few jokes with my new friend, then jumped. What an amazing feeling! I came down with the water and looked down at the wide rocky creek surrounded by tropical plants. And since I was the first one down, I got to watch everyone else make their decent as well. It was incredible.
Canopying was probably the coolest thing I have ever done. The cord they use can hold more than 1,000 pounds, and they strap you in with a harness on your chest and with your legs stretched out behind you. The first few seconds were completely terrifying, but then I stopped screaming, and it was completely silent and I just felt like I was really flying - so incredible.
Friday and Sunday were dedicated completely to travel - so I only had one full day there. But I know for sure I will return again soon. There are so many more amazing things there I want to have the chance to do!