A Giant Swing. Jungle Screaming. Ice Plunges. You’ll Love It.


Just a three-and-a-half hour drive from Ecuador’s capital, Quito, the city of Baños de Agua Santa snuggles right into a deep valley surrounded by the mountains skirting the Tungurahua volcano. With an elevation of shut to six,000 toes and a inhabitants of round 15,000 residents, Baños has a little bit of a ski city really feel: The metropolis slows down through the day whereas vacationers are out doing actions, and picks up once more within the night once they come again for dinner. It’s a magnet for unshaven backpacker sorts taking a break from mountaineering the route round Ecuador’s volcanoes and craters. They typically start their Baños extension with per week of relaxation, which then turns into a month’s sojourn, however quickly they purchase a motorcycle and undertake a avenue canine and, properly, perhaps that’s why all of the foreigners within the cafes of Baños appear to know everybody else’s identify. Baños is a cushty residence for a getaway artist.

But I arrived after darkish and the city regarded, frankly, miserable. A line of boarded-up clapboard retailers promoting cheesy T-shirts lined the street in, and the central plazas have been occupied solely by the occasional canine. When I checked into my inn, the air in my room felt damp, and the mattress arduous. I had heard by means of an extended, winding grapevine that Baños was an outside lover’s paradise, however as I tossed and turned that first evening I questioned if I had come all this manner for nothing.

Then, the subsequent morning, I opened the curtains on my modest room. A lengthy, white waterfall was pouring down the mountain in entrance of my window, a stone’s throw away, roaring to the underside and creating the identical soothing sound that individuals choose on their sound machines. Near the bottom of the waterfall, a steaming pool was already occupied by morning bathers. And surrounding them was the multi-shaded inexperienced of forest, from which an occasional chook name would emit. The damp air now felt vibrant and wholesome. Maybe I’d stick round in any case. Maybe even for an additional day or two.

The city is known for its heart-pounding thrills — zip line rides and paraglide flights and bungee jumps — but in addition for its therapeutic post-adventure choices within the type of muscle-soothing thermal baths, saunas and indigenous natural teas. So on my first morning, after a pleasant sizzling chocolate of Ecuadorean cacao at Aromi Cafe y Chocolate, I made my way to one of the tour agencies in town, GeoTours, and signed up for a smattering of activities, not sure exactly what was in store for me.

It turns out, just about everything was in store. First, my guide, Oscar, directed me to board an open-air gondola that crept over a deep valley with the rushing Pastaza River below. Next, after a roadside stop for chulpi, Ecuadorean toasted corn, and homemade guava sweets, I ran across a giant wooden hanging bridge in a forest, gawking at the richness of the trees climbing high above me. Next, I descended rock steps to the misty bottom of a tremendous waterfall, the 262-foot-tall Pailón del Diablo, which means devil’s caldron. Looking down at the churning blue circle of water, it was clear why.

Next came a massage, leaving me fully relaxed and Zen. When the attendant asked if I was interested in an “intestinal cleansing,” I mumbled “sure,” dreamily allowing her to escort me to a room where I found out, rather abruptly, that the “cleansing” was, in fact, an indigenous herbal tea enema. The spa attendant told me it was second in popularity only to the mud bath, so I soon found myself being instructed to remove my clothes and slather hot mud all over my body, and to then dance — yes, dance — until the mud dried. To presumably encourage my dancing, I was left alone in a mirrored room to watch a 1990s Zumba video and prance about until I was dry, after which I was hosed down.

Finishing out the day was a visit to the traditional baño de cajon, or sauna box, where I sat on a towel in a little wooden cubicle, my bare feet resting on eucalyptus leaves. The same spa attendant arrived, smiling, with green tea, but then slid a wooden shelf toward my neck, as if to behead me, trapping my body inside the box as she turned up the steam blasting at my thighs. She adjusted the straw on the tea so I could sip it with no hands, like a nurse might for someone in a full-body cast. Stay the course, I told myself, only to discover that the sauna box was followed by a cycle of ice-water plunges, culminating in the attendant firing a hose of icy water full-blast at my shivering body.

Was it the weirdest and most uncomfortable spa visit I have ever experienced? Yes. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Had I been a little braver, I would have gone bungee-jumping, or run the rapids on a white-water rafting trip. Maybe I would be describing how the forest looks below when you’re hang-gliding, or what it’s like to rappel down the cliffside of a waterfall.

But that’s the good thing about Baños: There’s always a reason to stay just one more day.



Source link Nytimes.com

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