Baños, Cuenca and the Peruvian border – 5 days – 1820 metres above sea level

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The volcanos are behind us. We continued our journey towards South-East and therefore getting closer to the Amazonian rainforest and its secrets. 

The first stop was in Baños, a city in a valley which is famous by all the Ecuadorians and the backpackers for the thermal baths and the vertiginous swings. 

We arrived in Baños on the All Saints Day. For this special day, Ecuadorians are meeting each other to celebrate the deaths. Next to the cemeteries of the city, there is a special atmosphere during this day. Many stalls have been built for the opportunity to get flowers or a Guagua de Pan (a traditional bread shared in family specifically this day). This bread has a similar shape of the Gingerbread Man character in the movie Shrek (but not looking as good). This sweet bread is usually accompanied with Colada Morada, a drink also prepared specifically for these celebrations. When the night is falling, the cemeteries offer beautiful colours with warm blue and yellow lights.

The next day, we followed the advice of an adventurer traveling for a while – we are not sure anymore if he has a Dutch or South American nationality. We went on the top of a mountain to reach the “Casa del Arbol” and its famous swings. The ascent was steep, 1000m of difference in height during a 8-km hike. This effort allowed us to enjoy the view over the city and the surrounded mountains, but also to understand the high touristic frequentation of this place. For an adrenaline touch, we tried the swings which are famous for swinging in thin air with a beautiful mountainside landscape in the background. 

After a hiking day, we left Baños by going alongside the gorges of Rio Pastaza. The narrow path between the mountains is getting wider, the atmosphere is changing, here we are at the entry of the Amazonian rainforest. 

First, we stopped next to Puyo to visit “El refugio  de Los Monos”. A place taking in monkeys who where in captivity or victims of illegal traffic. For the first time, we were walking in the jungle surrounded by many cute monkeys. Even if this place has built spaces, there is still a nice Indian Jones’ atmosphere.  

We carried on our road towards Cuenca, alongside the forest. There are about 10 kilometres between each village. Around, the trees are the kings. Only a straight line has been created to build the road. Our stop in Sucua marked the end of our passage in the Amazonian rainforest. We crossed a col with roadworks from the bottom to the top, to reach Cuenca. 

This student city has a remarkable colonial architecture. Its main square is welcoming and the Immaculada Conception cathedral is one of the most impressive cathedrals that we saw until today. It’s very enjoyable to walk in the town-centre. The traffic is very low (that’s rare enough to mention it!). It’s very pleasant to go discovering the several churches with different designs and each one being nicer than the previous one. The little squares are also very numerous and the Rio Tomebamba, in the South offer a great surrounding for walking along. 

After 2 days spent in the white city, we went back towards the Peruvian border. After crossing massive banana tree fields, we stopped in Santa Rosa to spend the night before to cross the border the next day. 

The road was still very enjoyable to reach the border in Arenillas, but surprisingly it was also deserted. Five kilometres before to reach Peru, we stopped in the Ecuadorian custom desk to let them know that we were going out of the country.

With a blazing sun and in a deserted area, alone in the middle of nowhere, we crossed a bridge above a river marking the natural border between both countries. A few kilometres after, we reached the Peruvian border. Surprisingly, nobody there. We got in less than half an hour, our stamp to certify that we were leaving Ecuador, another one with our 90-day visa for Peru and the paperwork for the importation of the side-cars in this new country. The longest was to find a cash machine to pay the SOAT – an insurance allowing us to drive in the country. 

After a return trip in Thumbes, we can enjoy Peru! 


Where to eat?  

Arepas To Go
Oriente, Baños

Arriving at the end of the afternoon in Baños with an empty stomach, there is nothing better than delicious Venezuelan areapas to feel better. Well garnished with a reasonable price, this is definitely a good address without pretention. 


Where to have a drink? 

 Microbrewery La Compania
Presidente Borrero 4-62 y Honorato Vasquez, Cuenca

A microbrewery well located with a warm atmosphere. Wooden walls and tables, a wide selection of drag beers. We could almost feel like in an Irish Pub. 

Stray Dog BewPub
Rocafuerte y Maldonado, Baños

After climbing up to reach the Casa del Arbol, you deserve a chilled beer. For this, there is nothing better than a drink in the Stray Dog Pub which is brewing their own beers. The price of the pint is a bit expensive but the flavours and the originality of the place will help you to forget of this expenditure!