Baños, a city with millions (or so it seems) thermal baths

In some (most) places, I cannot stop taking pictures (borderline compulsive)… The light and the composition are simply perfect… Then you have some places (this remains rare!) where we have a lovely time but don’t get a chance to take any picture. For my defense though 1) Baños’ weather was outrageously horrible and light was not picture friendly 2) we were (consequently) unable to do any outdoor activity that would have been great to do while in Baños. While biking 20 km to the waterfalls seemed exciting, the risk of a land slide that would most likely occur along the way due to the heavy rains slightly less 3) take a bus to a crazy swing (literally hanging in the empty space) seemed pointless as there was a significant (99% was mentioned and seemed pretty accurate to us) chance that there would be no view due to rain and fog. So see? Even if I had wanted to take pictures, I wasn’t allowed by the universe itself (blame it on the universe? Check!). It was for sure a shame that we ended up with no picture but to be fair, this was the perfect weather to justify most-wanted sleep ins, late breakfasts and lunches at the market, hours at the thermal baths, catch up over pizza and mojito with Irene and James who also happened to be in town.

Meeting local people and discover new places have definitely been rewarding but one of our favorite activities remains local food sampling. Along the way, with a 30$ budget a day, it might have been tricky at times to do so but Colombia and Ecuador have been kind enough to keep their authentic and simple kitchen. Served in little stalls at the markets those meals have been affordable, tasty and probably one of the best we have eaten. You gotta love a cheap “menu del dia”. With (generally) a soup, a main and a juice, we have been generously fed by wonderful Colombian and Ecuadorian women, at a backpacker-friendly price. Win win! Baños was certainly no exception and we enjoyed our culinary break over there! With no expensive activity to spend our money on, we went pretty wild on fresh pressed juices!

Life could have been worse… Eat, sleep and treat ourselves to thermal baths (repeat). Baños seemed to have a million of the latter and since it is always tough to pick a place when confronted to so many choices, we were grateful to our landlord for recommending the Virgin Mary one (sounded promising) to us. This is where the locals hang out an we drivers to give it a try. We braved the rain to walk to the other side of the town (ok sounds dramatic but it was less than a kilometer) and we were rewarded by a lovely view on the town waterfalls. We had access to two pools, a very hot one (around 40 degrees Celsius – some swearing might have been involved while attempting to go in the first time) and a warm one (invaded by family with kids, who didn’t quite understand the concept of a thermal bath and instead of relaxing, were splashing around. Arggggh). To make our experience more painful, erm I mean enjoyable, we were “invited” to proceed under a glacial outdoor shower whose water directly came from the waterfall. Yes, this was painful but surprisingly fantastically satisfying and we might have gone back a few times! The facilities were not the cleanest and the place could do with a makeover but we had a cool time there anyway even tho we were asked to wear what we call a “head condom”.

We would have called in a night if it wasn’t for James and Irene but instead we dragged our old butts out of our warm bed. We ended up in a not so Irish bar (how do they dare calling the pub ‘leprechaun’?!) sipping… pisco sour… After almost 4 years, pisco sour and I finally met again! It made our Peruvian “soon-to-be-transit” episode very real. We were getting closer and closer to the end of our Latin exploration, to start our journey to the east coast. Where from we would jump on a plane towards Asia (with a layover at home for a very dear friend’s wedding. Exciting and emotional times ahead!). We didn’t stay out too late as day 2 promised to be challenging: eat, sleep and thermal baths require a lot of energy, no? For our second thermal baths treat, we decided to try the nocturnal version… An additional bath was opened: even hotter – 43 degrees! For Christ sake, how do you enter this, we wondered?! Well thanks to friendly locals, who giggled at the look on our face, we were carefully instructed to do as follow 1) you jump first in a bath at 5 or 6 degrees. Say whaaaat? 2) you simply rush into the hot tub tight after. 3) No hesitation 4) Once inside, no movement as every single movement hurts. Ahhh THAT easy (not)! You stay and relax for a few seconds, brave souls (I’d like to affectionally call them nutters) like M stayed in for a few minutes. But the nocturnal version also meant a lot more people than the previous day and therefore a lot (lot lot) of unwanted contact. Arrrrrrrgh!

Our last night in Baños, happily relaxed from the baths, we decided to try the best pizza place in town, following James’ lead and it was a success. It was definitely one of the best pizzas we have had in years. Thanks to James and Irene, we also discovered a great bar, playing music from the 80’s. No offense salsa, bachata and meringue but it was time for a break. It was not you, it was me. I needed that time apart and gosh it felt great to sing familiar tunes along. Well, it felt great to mumble sound-alike lyrics – what do you seriously expect from a French person who has for the last three decades shamelessly freely interpreted lyrics?! Newly energized by delicious mojito and that spontaneous sing (mumble) along evening, we were ready for our next day early start. We were grateful for those two days of relaxation and enjoying life. This was surely the true meaning of Carpe Diem, no? Next stop: Cuenca…

Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!


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