I’ll carry on where I left off… having picked up a few fellow travellers who were making the same journey as us, we were now a group of 6. We said goodbye to Kamala and Montañita and made the 3 hour bus journey back to Guayaquil, where we boarded the night bus to Baños. It wasn’t the most comfortable nights sleep I’ve ever had, but our hostel (Community Hostel) in Baños gave us a room as soon as we arrived so we could all just crash out for a few hours.
We spent the next couple of days enjoying what Baños had to offer… which was a lot. Some of our crew went white water rafting and had an absolute blast, while myself and Conor just spent our first afternoon exploring the town, wandering through the streets and markets. The next day we opted for a a ‘little’ bike ride. We rented bikes from a ‘Geo Tours’ in town (I recommend searching around for the best price and it’ll usually be cheaper in town than at your hostel) and, following their instructions and a little map, made our way out of town to follow the ‘Ruta de las Cascades‘ (route of the waterfalls). It was mostly downhill the whole way, but there were some absolute killer uphills too… I’m not ashamed to say I had to get off the bike at one point and push it up one of the last hills! But the sore legs and bruised bum were so worth it when we reached the spectacular waterfalls. After a few stops to admire the views, and to watch people go on the crazy zip lines along the route, we finally reached Rio Verde and Cascada El Pailón del diablo, an incredible sight, with its enormous downpour of water, crashing into the pools below.
After getting completely soaked under the waterfall, we stopped for a bit of food by the side of the road and then got back on our bikes for the last leg of the ride. We eventually reached Machay Cascada and hiked down the hill to where the waterfall had created a perfect swimming hole. We immediately stripped off our sweaty clothes and jumped right into the glorious freezing cold water… exactly what we needed after the exhausting bike ride. The hike back up the hill was horrendous but, with our legs burning, we finally made it back to the top where there was a truck waiting to take us and our bikes back to Baños… there was no way we were cycling back!
Our last morning in Baños was spent up a mountain on a very scary swing. We took the local bus up ($1 each way), paid the $1 entry fee, and queued up at the ‘Swing at the End of the World’, or ‘Casa del Arbol’. For every person I watched get swung higher and higher by the local guys who were literally jumping in the air to swing as hard as they could, I got more and more nervous and remembered how much I really don’t like swings. But I couldn’t go all the way up there and not have a go. So I stepped onto the platform with trepidation, strapped myself in, and then away I went, swinging out over the edge of the mountain, trying to ignore that horrible dropping feeling in my stomach and to just enjoy the view. And that was that. Swing… Check!
Our next (and final) stop in Ecuador was Quito, which required a 3.5 hour bus journey. After what felt like forever, we finally arrived and grabbed a taxi (after some argumentative bartering) to our hostel, Secret Garden. By this point I was absolutely exhausted so just crashed out while the boys went out for some dinner. There’s not a huge amount to see or do in Quito, and our hostel had an incredible view from the rooftop bar/restaurant, so we could see the entire city from right where we were. We were also keen to keep going and get to Colombia so, after saying some goodbyes, our little group (now just 4 of us) made our way to the North bus terminal and hopped on the bus to Tulcán, the last town in Ecuador before the border crossing into Colombia.
Crossing the border was one of the most intense travel experiences I think I’ve ever had. There were no clear instructions, or signs anywhere, and it was all just absolute chaos, with people and bags and noise everywhere. I’ve written a step by step guide for this border crossing in another post, but for now I’ll just say it was complicated and a little scary, but doable if you know what to do and where to go… I’m definitely glad I was with 3 boys though as I would not have wanted to do that alone.
We did manage to figure it all out in the end and, after about an hour, we had been stamped out of Ecuador and stamped into Colombia. Welcome to country number 31!