It’s right what people had told me about Baños, it’s a very touristy spot and some will love it while others won’t. Despite doing no activities, I loved my time there, the town was small but really nice, with a few good cafes around to occupy my two days while I recharged from the previous week. It’s completely safe, giving me a chance to walk around by myself at night, something I probably haven’t done since I left Australia and something I’ve actually quite missed.
I caught up with a friend from Cotopaxi and we went to the Casa del Arbol together – the swing at the end of the world – which we had seen featured on anyone’s Instagram account who had traveled through Baños. We got our obligatory photos on the swing, with that alone providing enough adrenaline for my days there before needing to consider zip lining or canyoning.
While I was there I also had my first Spanish lesson, something that was becoming increasingly necessary as I found I couldn’t even guess what people were trying to communicate with me half the time. More were needed but it was a good start and a more productive way to spend my afternoon before the night bus to Cuenca, which I took after making some dinner and walking to the station.
Night busses are great in theory, you save money on accommodation and you waste your night dealing with transport rather than your day when you could be out being a tourist. The problem is, no one gets a really good sleep on a bus, and on these busses they tend to insist on playing a loud western film with Spanish dubbed over the top, or you can hear the intense music the driver plays which makes sleep an even harder feat. With all this in mind you sleep for as long as you can, arrive at your destination way too early in the morning and hope that they have a bed ready for you despite the usual check in time of 2pm. I wasn’t lucky and found myself sleeping on the couch in the common area for a couple of hours before meeting up with friends I had made on the Quilotoa loop. We spent the day exploring Cuenca; a beautiful city similar to Quito but with less people and more beauty. The buildings are all painted in nice pastel colours, with whites and creams, pinks and oranges, some reds in there too. It makes it a beautiful city to walk around and occupied us for hours, finding food spots here and there and stopping for groceries on the way back to make ourselves a family dinner in the hostel kitchen.
On Friday we headed to Cajas National Park and picked one of the eight hikes to explore for the day. It was cold; we were back up at altitude and the wind had picked up and I hadn’t really picked appropriate clothing for that sort of weather. I struggled for the first part as we walked along the highway for a few kilometres, waiting to see the blue trail sign showing us to leave the road and head into the nature. Thankfully the area was stunning with mountains around us, a couple of lakes and of course, cows and llamas to keep us company on the way. The cloud cover was low but still the area was beautiful, though it would be amazing to see it on a clear day. The hike finished with us sitting on the highway again, waiting for a bus to come past but sticking our arms out in case anyone felt like bringing a few tourists back into Cuenca with them. We may have had too much hope for that but after half an hour a bus came past, taking us back to Cuenca where we got a taxi back to the hostel and ate dinner and played cards until it was time to leave for yet another night bus.