Banos, Latacunga and Laguna Quilotoa

Trip Start Mar 01, 2009
Trip End Jun 25, 2009

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

In the week between leaving the Galapagos and starting our project we decided to head south of Quito by Bus. Our destination was the spa town of Banos, four hours later we arrive in a chilled out little town surrounded by mountains and an active volcano....
We spent three full day in Banos, the first taken up by laundry, catching up on emails and taking a 'health spa' in our hostel which consisted of sitting in wooden boxes with our heads sticking out of the top while the box filled with steam then being hosed down with cold water!
On the second day we decide to hire mountain bikes and head out of the town on the main road east towards the Amazon Basin. This stretch of road is known for its stunning waterfalls and we stopped several times on the way to take in the views. At one of the waterfalls we take a cable car of sorts across the valley for a better view. At the forth there is a track down to the foot of the fall and some man made viewing terraces. This is really cool to see a waterfall up close but we get absolutely soaking! The ride from Banos is downhill all the way and we decide to catch a 'bus' back up to town. The bus is little more than a farmer's truck and we find ourselves in our third 'back of a truck ride' so far!
The hills to the south of Banos have a number of hiking trails and on our final morning we take a walk for a few hours, affording us some fantastic views back down to the town. In the afternoon we decide to visit one of the public hot spas Banos is famous for. It's little more than a public swimming pool but the water comes from natural hot springs and the pools are situated close to more waterfalls making it a really relaxing spot.
Before heading back to Quito to register for our project we stop off for a couple of nights in Latacunga. It's a town larger than Banos and not so touristy so we get a bit of a flavour of a real Ecuadorian town... if we're honest it's a bit dull apart from the market which sells virtually everything and has some weird and wonderful fruit and veg (and animal inards!!). Latacunga is also on the edge of the Quilotoa loop which is a series of mountain villages linked by a twisting rollercoaster of a road. Also in the middle of the loop is an extinct volcanic crater which has filled with rain water and turned green due to the volcanic gasses creating our next stop, Laguna Quilotoa.
We hire a guide who drives us to the crater (around 3 hours) stopping off at some of the mountain villages and a local art gallery on the way. In one town they have a market where all the local mountain communities come to sell and buy goods. It's fantastically vibrant and colourful and a great thing to experience first hand.
The lagoon itself is virtually hidden from view until you get right up to the lip and it's a stunning site. Our guide takes us down into the crater (about 30min hike) down to the water, it's really peaceful down by the water and strange to think that in such a large lake there's no life other than algae. It's the best part of an hour back but it's nice to chat to the guide about all sorts of stuff: the local communities, plant life in the mountains and even the upcoming elections.
From Latacunga we head back to Quito for one last night (and one last cocktail) before we start our volunteering experience... we're both really looking forward to it.
C. xx

P.S. Pics to follow!!!!!
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