17th May to 20th May 2014
17.05.2014 - 20.05.2014
We woke up and left Latacunga early, tempted by the prospect of getting into the spa hotel we had booked in Baños for our 1st wedding anniversary. On the way to the bus stop, we attempted to find our favourite little snack of five boiled quails’ eggs. When we found one, all the sellers suddenly disappeared into different directions. It was very strange until we saw the police so we guess none of them had a licence…The bus stop was on a random side of the street. When we got onto the bus, it was already rammed with people, so we had to stand in the aisle for a while. Swaying from side to side we managed not to fall over despite their interesting driving techniques. Matt was pleased they were playing the Hobbit on the TV until the DVD broke and it came to an end. After a few hours we arrived into Baños in the early afternoon. Unfortunately, we underestimated the walk from the bus terminal to our hotel which took around 40mins on a long, busy road which wasn’t so nice with our backpacks. Eventually we made it to our hotel which from the outside didn’t look that appealing. We booked a place called el Hogar de Chocolate and it was only recently opened, so there were quite a few teething problems. However, it was owned by a lovely woman called Malu who also ran a bit of a dog rescue service, so the place was full with five friendly doggies. Malu was a bit unexpected to see us so early, and so the room wasn’t ready and neither was the spa. So we wandered into town to check out the local sites.
Baños is a small town set in a valley amongst beautiful, green mountains and at the foot of a massive (over-5000 metre) volcano which is still active and is known to spout smoke and fire from time to time! The town is also well known for its baths (hence the name) some of which are stinking hot because they are fuelled by the volcano. We wandered around town and had some dinner at a lovely veggie restaurant and then went for a coffee in a cute, artsy café to sort out what we wanted to do for our anniversary tomorrow. When we arrived back at the hotel, Malu had prepared the room with flowers and chocolates (as requested by Matt) and the spa was ready to use. So for the rest of the evening we used the Jacuzzi baths, cold pools, steam room and a strange device called a box bath which is basically a massive wooden box that you sit in with only your head poking out while hot steam scented with eucalyptus warms up your body – it was really nice! The whole spa experience was topped off with drinks in the Jacuzzi!
The next morning we woke to a wonderful breakfast in our room which was a great way to start our anniversary. After milling around getting ready, we wandered off to a local massage spa place to check out the options. We ended up staying there for most of the day! We booked an hour-long massage with hot volcanic stones which was preceded by a “therapeutic walk”. Basically, it was a walk (barefoot) around the grounds of the spa with lovely views of the mountains and river. The walk was signposted with lots of thoughtful sayings and proverbs to make you reflect as you walked around. There were also a couple of places where you were encouraged to shout out towards the mountains to release all those negative thoughts and feelings. It was a quite a liberating experience screaming at the top of your voice into the distance – try it! After the walk we were put into robes and taken to a quiet room out the back with relaxing music and then had our massage which was really, really good especially the warming volcanic stones at the end. Afterwards we were given a nice pineapple and juice while we stared out across the river. It was all exactly what we needed! We got back to the hotel in the late afternoon and Matt had a quick spa session before getting ready for dinner. We had booked into a restaurant in the Samari Spa Resort which was across the road from our hotel. It was supposed to be the best restaurant in Baños and one of the best in Ecuador. Knowing that it was our anniversary, they kindly put nice candles out and a rose on the table. The food was fantastic and despite being expensive by Ecuadorian standards it cost us only £40 for a three course meal with wine. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and used their spa facilities again for the rest of the evening. It was a great way to spend our first wedding anniversary!
The next morning we had another lovely breakfast (but this time Ecuadorian rather than western style) and were told that we could stay again for a third of the price (only $30 with breakfast and use of the spa) as we were going to leave – we couldn’t refuse! As the weather wasn’t particularly great, we headed off to one of the local baths called el Salado which was at the foot of one of the big hills. The spa was made up of around seven different baths of varying temperatures from freezing cold to boiling hot. The highlight was a steaming hot bath that was heated by the volcano to nearly 40degrees. The water was completely murky (apparently from the mineral content!) and was full of volcanic stones at the bottom. It was great to sit in there and boil and then refresh in one of the cool baths. Luckily as it was a Monday and the morning, there weren’t that many people and we were able to chat to some of the friendly locals. After the pools, we had some lunch at another recommended restaurant called la Posada del Arte which was a quirky place near the back of the town. The food was nice, but not a touch on the place last night so we made the right choice for our anniversary. After lunch we headed on a bit of a walk around the hills to try and get a view above the town and of the volcano. The walk was lovely and the views over the town and of the surrounding hills were great, but because the clouds and rain were setting in there was no chance of seeing the volcano. We then headed back to our hotel to use the spa for one last time. Unfortunately as Malu was away, we don’t think the lady in charge really knew how to run it properly so it was a bit cold and the steam room wasn’t on – oh well!
The next morning Matt woke up at about half 6 and checked his emails to hear the news that he got the job in Cambridge! So we both shot up awake and started emailing people and then had to manically get ready and rush breakfast as we were getting picked up at 8.45am to go rafting. We managed it and by 9am we were on our way. Our guide wasn’t particularly enthusiastic and was asleep for the whole journey to the river, and when we arrived he was generally quite rude. However, during the actual rafting itself he was quite fun and encouraging. We started by doing a dry run on land with all eight people in the boat – we were the motor and the guide was the driver. We were then unleashed on the river on class II-III rapids which is beginner to intermediate level (the highest grade is V). It was a fantastic experience, but far too short and we immediately wanted more. The rush of powering through massive rapids and trying to stay in the boat was great. Only one girl fell out during the whole trip and that was because the guide pushed her out! He also encouraged us to sit at the very front of the boat as we went through high rapids, which was really exhilarating. We absolutely loved it and can’t wait to try it again in Peru! We were dropped back at our hotel after lunch at a restaurant on the way back and then caught a taxi to the hostel we had booked for the final night. However, the woman said that she had given our room to someone else because we were “too late” for check in (even though she hadn’t told us this) – it was only three o’clock! We stormed out in a hump and then just booked into the hostel directly opposite which was nicer anyway! The rest of the evening was spent chilling and then going out for some drinks to celebrate – although the town was completely dead, so we stayed in a nice little bar attached to a hostel. Tomorrow we are off to Cuenca which will be our final stop in Ecuador!