The small town of Banos is famous for the Devils Cauldron, an immensely powerful waterfall with a beautiful staircase built for… well we aren’t entirely sure! That said it sure made for a good picture. Leaving the rain of Cotopaxi we thought we might be able to find some nice weather in Banos as it’s a little lower. This definitely didn’t prove to be the case.
After a long drive we pulled into a campsite a little bit out of town. Having heard the town of Banos itself was nothing special or worth staying in we weren’t fussed to be in the centre of it, and it turns out the campsite was in a beautiful, quiet location right above a thundering river. We spent the night after a long day of driving with an early bed, and an equally early start. We wanted to get to the main attraction before the swathes of tourists.
So nice and early we left towards the Devils Cauldron, not entirely sure what to find only having seen pictures. As luck would have it we ended up at the less touristy side, which has no viewpoint of the main staircase but you can actually climb up and down it! It was yet another situation where we thought health and safety by UK standards would have a field day. Also it turns out you can walk right behind the absolutely raging waterfall! At first Mikey wasn’t convinced you could, as the access point was an absolutely tiny tunnel but Annie had already passed through it so on we pressed. This also afforded a great view of the staircase but wasn’t exactly the dry day we were hoping for!
Next we went to the higher bridge to get a better view of the stairs. This one turned out to be much busier, with a gang of tour buses already stopped there – we weren’t sure if it was just the more popular attraction or if it was due to us being there later in the day. Still we paid the entrance fee and headed in, across some pretty ropey hanging bridges! There we got our super shot of the staircase, but quickly left the crowds behind for some absolutely gorgeous empanadas and fried plantain with cheese. Absolutely incredible!
Despite being told the campsite was not too far from town, it turned out that the walk into town was pretty grim, through a winding old highway with no footpath to be seen. We’d also been told it was a 20 minute walk – definitely an understatement. It took us 40 mins of walking and during which the heavens started to open! We thought we’d treat ourselves with an Indian for dinner which was definitely a bad and non-tasty move, so we retreated back to the camp. On the way back however we spotted a market with incredible fruit and veg, a huge bag of Strawberries for $1 went very well with our breakfast!
After Banos it was onto Cuenca, another pretty city where we could stay in the driveway of Miriams place, the most welcoming place we’ve stayed so far for sure! Instantly she helped us as the following day we were hunting around the engine due to a problem with cold starts and found the culprit. Surprisingly we could find the replacement part the same day! Also her uncle owned a hardware repair store next door so we could buy any tools we needed for the job, a super convenient location to do some repairs!
The next day, as we’d spent pretty much a whole day working on Betty, Miriam wanted to show us around her city. So she kindly gave us some breakfast (even though we’d already eaten, it was so good we weren’t complaining!), and took us to a Panama Hat making class, and also a museum! Safe to say we were both naturals – maybe seeking some work after so long unemployed. We were showed a hat which took 1 year to weave and was worth $18,000 – a serious investment! That afternoon we wandered around a cultural museum but we were both pretty tired from a lot of walking and quickly went back. We treated ourselves to Thai for dinner as a break from the Ecuadorian staples of rice and meat for a change!
After Cuenca we went to Cajas national park – an absolutely stunning national park with gorgeous hikes around lakes. We were finally getting lucky with some good weather up here, however it was around 4,000m so we were so cold during the night! That morning we knew we wouldn’t be staying so left for a free campsite by the border with Peru, however when we got there we were literally hounded by mosquitos. We hadn’t seen them in so long we’d almost forgotten how grim they could be. In a quick and rash decision we thought, despite it being 4pm, we should just cross into Peru that very same day. Maybe there’s some logic to that, as at 4pm on a Saturday the border post was completely empty and we crossed into Peru in less than an hour! So far our experience of South American borders has been so much easier than Central American.
Fresh into Peru we landed at a gorgeous beachside camp for a couple of days of relaxing. We have a lot of driving to come our way.