Adventure sports in the shadow of an erupting volcano, Baños
Tungurahua Volcano erupted this morning spewing plumes of gas, above the stunning town of Baños in Ecuador. I had a chance to get up close, visiting Casa del Arbol (Tree House) near the base of Tungurahua – also known by the fitting name of Swing at the End of the World.
Despite the threat of the end of the world coming from above, life went on as normal in Baños. Instead of evacuating the town, my guide took me into a valley that was perfectly located for a pyroclastic lava flow should the eruption have escalated, and I went flying through the jungle and across the canyon on zip lines. The erupting volcano added an edge to the adrenalin experience. (The town was evacuated because of the volcano for several weeks in 1999 and since then Tungurahua has been active.)
Baños is set in a valley surrounded by stunning and steep jungle covered mountains. The powerful Pastaza River flows below the town and provides hydro energy to the region and the capital Quito. Baños seems to have an endless number of waterfalls flowing off the mountains above and below the town, providing spectacular scenery.
Travellers flock here for the adventure sports: canyoning, rafting, kayaking, zip lining and bungy jumping; and also the scenic hiking and the hot springs.
I braved the dubious safety record to go canyoning, rappelling and jumping off seven metre waterfalls, dodging underwater boulders and surviving whirlpools and currents. It was stunning and awesome!
After two days of cloud and rain the sun made an appearance providing perfect weather to bike 23km through the canyon alongside the river to Pailon del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron). This was an amazing waterfall experience where we crawled through the mountain to be able to touch this powerful waterfall. The path took us behind the waterfall as thousands of litres rush over us in a split second. I could not have felt more alive.
Accommodation: Great Backpackers Los Pinos, $9 includes breakfast and towel and has a good vibe.
GeoTours Baños: Experienced and excellent staff and guides. A full day canyoning is $45-50; rafting is $25-30; ziplining $20; kayaking is $90 per day. Bike tour costs $7 for rental and transport back to town.
Casa del Arbol can be reached via bus which runs every 2-3 hours for $1. Entrance is $1. Alternatively you can rent a bike and take a taxi to the top and ride back to town.
Getting to Baños: Buses run frequently from Quito to Baños for $4 and take four hours. Shuttle services also run direct to Baños in 2.5 hours.