14.01.2011 - 22.01.2011
Baños – Ruta de las Cascadas. 14th-16th Jan
My first weekend trip was to the much celebrated holiday destination of Baños – famous for aguas thermales (hot springs) and adventure sports. Whilst I’m not that keen on the idea of adventure sports without the watchful eye of the HSA, the thermal springs were fantastic & the surrounding landscape is stunning.
It took us 5 hours to get to Baños on the coach – usually a 3.5 hour trip – after battling with traffic, various people jumping on the bus at every opportunity to try and sell dubious looking snack food, and a conductor who wanted to stop every 20 minutes to try and pick up more passengers.
We got up early on the Saturday to soak in the hot springs. ‘Aguas de la Virgen’ is a thermal baths which occupies an envious spot at the top of the town next to a waterfall with views out across the valley from the pool. The Ecuadorian family atmosphere was quite fun – being the only people with white skin in a swimming pool makes you painfully aware of your minority status! After an hour’s soak we were so relaxed that we almost collapsed on the way back to the hostal for breakfast.
We spent most of the day trekking down the valley. The trail was empty of tourists, who I can only assume were busy with their adventure sports, and the scenery was lush – this valley eventually leads down in to the very top of the Amazon basin. The only person we saw all day was a farmer who happily guided us through a patch where the path had been reclaimed by nature, and sold us some home grown fruit.
‘Mantel de la Novia’ – feels kind of like being in Jurassic Park.
Apparently even high up in the Andes there is demand for tasteless holiday homes coupled with a lack of intelligent planning regulation
Cotopaxi. 22nd Jan
Cotopaxi is the world’s highest active volcano. With some time and training (and of course some luck with the weather conditions) you can make your way right to the top. We walked up as far as the first refuge and then biked down though the Paramo - bleak high altitude landscape which was given its name by the conquistadors due to its apparent similarity to the mountainous regions around Madrid of the same name.
Trekking up to the first refuge on Cotopaxi
Up in the snow and fog above the refuge
Spot the American! (sorry Matt – couldn’t resist!)
Me in a few years’ time when I’ve completed my Mountaineering Leadership Winter Award!
Back down below the snow
The bleak beauty of the Paramo
One for Lucy (I hope he'll get on with the rest of the crew - he's in my bag and can't wait to meet you)
Leaving for the Galapagos tomorrow morning - VERY exciting!! Back on the 13th Feb.