Baños and the river

The half hour drive from Baños centre that cut through and wound around the jagged and curvaceous Andes gave us chance to get to know the other would-be rafters; two graduates fresh from university in Belgium, an English teacher based in Northern Spain and a family of four from Germany traveling Latin America. With the exception of Alicia this was everyone’s first time white-water-rafting.

Baños and bridge jumping

Ever since I saw and read about puenting (bridge or swing jumping) I knew I had to do it.

Different from bungee jumping as the rope doesn’t have the same elasticity and the harness is situated around the body – most of it is painfully focused on the groin – rather than the feet. The rope is shorter and instead of falling or jumping a dive is required to create a swinging motion.

However standing on a tiny ledge, a fierce wind taunting, white waters raging beneath and several pieces of yarn attached to you, doubt enters the mind. Doubt quickly turns into fear followed by anxiety, cowardice, fragility, inadequacy and impotence. With the gut churning, legs wobbling and nausea setting in, the only thought is ´WHY?!´. Then above the loud logical thoughts of sanity, a clear commanding voice is heard “3…. 2….. 1……”.

And before you know it you´re screaming like a demented banshee.

Baños and the waterfalls

A short drive from Baños’ centre are the Chamana waterfalls. It was there we spent a morning working our way down multiple waterfalls by the art of canyoning (a combination of hiking, jumping, sliding, swimming, climbing and rappelling/abseiling).

The view from atop [Chamana Falls, Baños]

Our group was small so we were given the option of tackling four or seven waterfalls, we eagerly chose the latter. A short twenty minute hike followed by a ten minute lesson and we were scaling down our first wall with some confidence.

Baños, the playground of South America

Just a few hours hours away from Quito, Baños is a break away from the city life. Known as the adventure capital of Ecuador, it offers a wide variety of activities from the tame and innocent to the wild and extreme.

The city of Baños, Ecuador

Quito and the middle of the world

Quito, the capital of Ecuador and the start of our adventure in the southern hemisphere.

We arrived by plane from Guatemala to the first city (along with Krakow) to be named a UNESCO World Heritage site. The oldest capital in South America, founded at the end of the first millennium, is situated at 2,800m (9,350ft) above sea level. Whilst researching Latin America we’d read horror stories of travellers being hit with altitude sickness who had been unable to function for several days, in rare cases the height had been fatal as it caused swelling of the brain and/or fluid in the lungs. Symptoms include; dizziness, confusion, severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, convulsions, swelling of the extremities and shortness of breath. Not wanting to be bed-ridden or end up six feet under we took the precaution of buying some Diamox (altitude sickness pills). Thankfully however our three-day stay in the elevated capital produced no ill-effects.

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