Day 131: Banos, Ecuador
Banos is most famous for its thermal pools, which are popular with both Ecuadorian tourists as well as those farther abroad. But as soon as you arrive to this little town you see the area has much more to offer and every second storefront wants to tell you about it.
Our first night we took it easy and made plans the next day to gather brochures and check prices; before walking a block a woman flagged us down to come into her tour office. Like the others she had the volcano tours, biking, horseback riding and a one-day jungle tour. This was the most appealing as it wrapped several activities into one day and Carla promised us that it was not too strenuous, which was critical as my mother has a bad foot which is braced and cannot do all-day hikes.
We stopped in a few other places and while I only understood 60% of the spanish, all the tours offered the same activities so we went back to Carla, who happily matched the lowest price.
The next morning we met Carla and expected to be picked up by a tourist shuttle but instead we were greeted by Luis in an early 80s beige sedan. We got in thinking that he was taking us to the shuttle, instead we went to his home where we were fitted for rubber boots. Everyone was a bit nervous and I was worried that I had taken my family on some kind of scammy tour but said nothing as I was supposed to be the calm one, and the only one who could communicate with Luis who spoke no English.
Keeping an open mind, we decided that Luis was a nice man and it would be better to have a personal tour. In our ‘vintage’ transportation we drove out of the city and he pointed out various rivers and waterfalls, often stopping for photo opps. The tour started with a bang as we rode a cable car out to one, testing my mother who has a fear of heights. But always the trooper she gripped the cage with white knuckles and off we went.
After a few more photo opportunity stops we drove to the local monkey rescue centre. A Swiss couple started the rescue centre, finding and often buying mistreated monkeys, along with numerous other animals including dogs, birds and a bunch of animals we had never seen before.
Nearly all the animals roam freely, unless they are injured or aggressive with other animals. A few animals captured our heart. Including the little monkey above who had deformed bones as he had been kept in a box and wasn’t exposed to light. He’d never survive in the wild but seemed to enjoy being at the reserve.
As we were leaving we were distracted by one of the monkeys kept in a cage. She wasn’t aggressive or hurt but had been kept in a cage for 40 years and just preferred to live in a cage. We tried to leave her but she just kept talking, it’s strange how monkeys aren’t so different from humans.