We took the local bus to Baños, $3.50 each, and it was a scenic four hour ride. Since we had no reservations, and no LP guidebook, we had to hoist our packs on our backs and walk around town for a bit until we found a place we liked. The first place we tried looked good from the street, but the room was dark and stale and had no window to the outside. When we told them we didn’t like it the young man on the reception desk quickly suggested a relative’s Hostel and offered take us there. A pleasant stroll through the flower strewn central square took us to a really nice, quiet Hostel with a great mountain view.
There were even parrots in the garden, friendly enough that they wandered into the room, also a big turtle.
Baños is much smaller than Quito and quite quaint. We spent time wandering around the streets, found the market, with great fruit juice stands, and made it over to the waterfalls near the Hot Springs.
The other great find was a vegetarian restaurant called Sativa, run by a Rasta from the Dominican Republic who had an Ecuadorian wife. The salad greens had been picked only five minutes before they were served.
The other two things we did while we were there were a hike to the statue of the Virgin. After we were able to find the proper path, just before the Cemetery, it took us about an hour and a half to walk up the steep and winding stairs. The statue itself wasn’t much, just a big cement job, nothing in comparison to some of the huge Buddhist statues I’ve visited in Central Asia, but the view of the valley was quite impressive.
The other thing we had to do while we were in Baños was to take a bath at the hot springs. I’m used to the wild Onsens and classic hot springs at home in Japan, so this wasn’t much, just a couple of swimming pools of warm mineral water, and you had to wear a bathing suit. It was quite crowded, too.
On the morning of the 22nd of August we caught the local bus to Riobamba,then transferred to another local bus to Cuenca…eight hours winding through some beautiful countryside.