Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Baños, Ecuador | The Volcanic Town with a Swing at the End of the World

Baños: the ultimate adventurer's town. Complete with every outdoor activity... hiking, canopying (basically zip-lining face first through a canyon superman-style), waterfalls, biking, rafting, horse-back riding, ATVs, bungee jumping, canyoning, rock climbing... and the list goes on. Volcanic hot spring sulfur baths were yellowish green with mineral water. And while the locals dipped in the hottest springs - reaching temps of 115°F - like the pros that they are, thankfully there were slightly cooler pools nearby for the faint of heart (that would be me!).

After 14 years of quietly sitting dormant nearby, the volcano, Tungurahua, erupted a couple days before we arrived, dusting the entire town in a light coat of ash. Restaurants shuttered their windows and closed outdoor seating areas to keep their food (and patrons!) ash free. Volcanic equivalents of aftershock tremors - lots of rumbling, sporadic gun-shot popping and even a small earthquake - kept this midwest-turned-east-coast-city-girl wide eyed and full of excitement!

One of our most anticipated stops, Casa Del Arbol - topping many bucket lists for must-see wonders of the world - was just a short journey out of town. Deemed "The Swing at the End of the World", it was just that: a swing with no harness hanging from a rickety tree house carrying you out over the side of a mountain with a cinematic view of the nearby active volcano. Talk about adventure!


To see more of this Ecuador journey, check out the capitol city of Quito and a day in the life of a native Amazon family.

Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water (Nuestra Señora del Agua Santa)

Sugar Cane Taffy (Melcocha) - This naturally sweet taffy made from boiled raw cane syrup, is a local specialty. And countless stores not only sell it, they make it right in front of you... with shop owners pulling and beating it against door frames right before they break off a piece for you to sample!

Casa Del Arbol

Volcanic Ash from the recent eruption was everywhere... and continually collecting as it settled in the air.

Inside the rickety Casa Del Arbol resting along the mountain's side - talk about testing my fear of heights!

Such a uniquely beautiful butterfly - I love discovering how nature varies from place to place!

Above ground graves decorated with these incredibly intricate vignettes tell stories of the deceased - what a beautiful way to celebrate life!

Ash clouds continued to gather around the recently active volcano, Tungurahua.

Tungurahua's mini eruptions happened several times a day as aftershocks of the big eruption just 2 days before we arrived.

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