Baños: Stretching Toffee and Soaking in Hot Water

I have to confess that I had no idea what to expect from Baños in Ecuador. As far as I could tell, this was a small town in the middle of nowhere whose name translated as “Toilets”. What I didn’t expect was to find one of the most magical places I have ever seen and to run into an old work colleague.

Baths not Toilets

I soon discovered that the name Baños comes from the word “Baths” instead of “Toilets”. It turns out that this place is famous for the thermal springs here. These have been turned into pools which are magnificent places to soak for a couple of hours. My favourite one was under a waterfall. Lying here in the afternoon just as the sun is setting is a truly magical experience. This is the only time I have bathed in thermal spring water. Being a novice in such things I took the guy in charge’s advice to switch between hot and cold water regularly. It led to something which trod that incredibly thin line between utterly relaxing and blooming invigorating and which made a trip here a daily pleasure for me. It is a popular destination for Ecuadorian tourists and for gringos alike, so there is a nicely cosmopolitan feel to the town and the baths.ecuador

A Beautiful Place with a Weird Museum

After a couple of trips to the baths I had no idea what else to do here. It is a beautiful place to walk around but this was one of the first places I had visited independently. I had left the UK only a week or so before and I hadn’t yet worked out how to fill my days with stuff. Bizarrely, the advice I needed came from an unexpected source. I entered an internet café during a steaming hot day and a reedy Scottish voice from behind a giant PC said, “Don’t I know you?” Someone I had worked with for years had ended up in the same Ecuadorian town as me at the same time. I later bumped into another ex-colleague in an Argentine bus station, so it really is a small world. Anyway, she told me about the weird museum in town. This place is truly creepy, with the worst examples of stuffed animals you will ever see. It’s like they got a bunch of dead animals and asked a group of particularly lazy school kids to have their first go at taxidermy on them.

Toffee, a Volcano and a Punishing Climb

I eventually slowed down to the local speed of life. A fulfilling morning meant stretching out breakfast as far as humanly possible and then going to see some toffee get stretched across the road. Baños is famous for its production of toffee, which the local shopkeepers throw onto a hook and then stretch, stretch and, frankly, stretch some more. It is fascinating to watch but not as fascinating as a smoking volcano. The resident volcano started smoking while I was toffee- watching but the local taxi drivers wouldn’t take me there. I couldn’t quite grasp the reason for this but I narrowed it down to not wanting to die hideously or not being keen on the traffic. Eventually my old work colleague told me that there is a great walk up the Stations of the Cross leading to an unbelievable view of the city. Armed with my freshly stretched toffee and a bottle of water I headed off eagerly. Good lord, it was a punishing climb. The altitude, the heat and the years of sitting at an office desk meant that I was wheezing and whining long before the end of it. It was worth it though, as I was treated to a special view of a place which I now hold dear to my heart for a number of reasons.

I just need to thank the following blog carnivals for including Travel Ideaz Recently:

Lifestyle Carnival #61 – On Frugal Rules

Carnival of Financial Independence, 34th Edition – On Reach Financial Independence

Earn More, Spend Less: Volume 8 – On Student Loan Sherpa

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