Baños & Pondoa… relax and determination

5-8/12/2013

Lots of places in Ecuador are recommended by fellow travellers and from all the evenings sitting around fire pits, sharing table and chatting about the great experience it is being a such a different places we can deduce that ‘Baños de Aguas Santa is a place not to miss.  A direct bus from Quito brings us exactly where we want to be.  As a quite town situated south from the capital, Baños is one of the main touristic places of this South American Republic.  We find Tungurahua volcano, with its with black lava ashes covered slope and with its white snow topping, forming a sharp skyline contrasting the blue sky at the background of the picture.  Between that and the village a lower range of hills covered by a fresh green cheat of fodder and bushes, suited with several hot springs, provides many steaming flows with cascades and natural pools giving name to this location.  The town in the middle of the picture rests at the feet of the hills and extends till the very edge of a river valley.  And at the frontline the verge of the river valley of which the many torrents drop down into the Pastaza River.

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Baños looks like a painting of an idyllic town frozen in time.  But that’s the looks and the painting because in real live this town is well provided from all kind of touristic attractions and prices fulfilling like this all touristic needs.  All routes, pools, hikes, historic buildings, viewpoints… are well indicated and payable.  We do some walking in the centre of the town and visit the beautiful church: Virgen de Agua Santa and walk along the paintings representing all the miracles she is responsible for… something interesting, worth a look at it.

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We do a bit of trekking through the surroundings and a hike on the mountain side.  At the last one we meet, Miguel, the owner of a cosy place high above Baños, in a settlement of not more than ten houses, called Pandoa.

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He invites us to stay some nights and use the place as basecamp to do some mountain routes.  So after a good sleep and a tasteful breakfast, we start to follow from our new home a dust road along the base of this sleeping black giant.  After about 1 hour a sign tells us to leave the road and start the track up the hill taking us to the different refuges.  The Tungurahua volcano(5016MASL), which in Quichua mean ‘throat of fire’ is a tuff one to get on, following several deep dark muddy riverbed tunnels overgrown by years of wild flourishing creepers and walking paths at the edges of steep valleys.  The mountainside offers stunning views, an altitude experience and with acid loaded muscles as the path ascents higher and higher loosing itself in the passing clouds.  We feel relieved and satisfied when finally the last refuge is on sight. We stay a while, eat a bit and enjoy the view from 3800MASL over the valley and the sight of a with snow covered peak above us.

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With this truly challenge for body and mind in our bones we descent again and are happy to have a hot shower and a delicious meal prepared.  Today we try to do some writing but letters fade away as our eyes fall down, shouting for a night rest in our soft king-size bed.

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Our Recommendations:

–          In Baños the Hostal Erupción is cheap, comfortable, fully equipped with all kind of services and very well situated. Offers breakfasts and dinners at good prices.  A wide range of information is available at the front desk. Prices go from 7,5$ a bed (calle Ambato/Thomas Halflants, right at the corner of the central park)

–          Tungurahua volcano is very active, ask the locals about their opinion for hiking up to the different refuges.  If you want to get till the top, a guide is much recommended as the regular eruptions (almost every 3 months) cover the path and lava ashes can cause a kind of avalanche.

–          Pandoa is a VERY quite community, but very good to avoid the touristic multitude. The only hostel offers 1st class food, WI-FI, mountain experience, private rooms with bathroom and very comfortable beds. It counts even a very small museum with old mountain exploring equipment.  Definitely worthy to pass some days with stunning views over the valley during the day and about a million stars to appreciate during the night. For contact: turismocomunitariopondoa@hotmail.com or call Miguel at 0998391072 or Luis at 09849809302013-12-08 09.53.13

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