Raising the heart rate in Baños…

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Leaving the jungle behind was tough, but I soon cheered up when I started reading about the next stop: Baños. Driving through the Ecuadorian highlands, we arrived just outside in a village called Rio Verde near the Tungurahua volcano. The mountain views from the campsite are pretty special but they’re not the best thing about our accommodation for the next three nights. That honour goes to camp doggies Bambu and Rita who are both tickle monsters.

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My new bestie, Astrid, and I decided to break the tour company rule of single sexed tent sharing for solo travellers and I’m so glad we did as she wakes me up with a cuppa every morning. I needed it too after discovering that my water bottle had leaked during the night leaving me with only one set of dry clothes.

Baños is an adventure junkie’s paradise so naturally on the first day I decided to treat myself to a 90 minute full body massage. The accompanying pan pipe music lost most of its soothing effect given that the front door to the salon was wide open meaning the soundtrack was punctuated with the sound of traffic and trucks reversing. The massage wasn’t entirely relaxing. After being instructed to turn onto my back, the massage therapist proceeded to blindfold me before wafting something under my nose. Anticipating that I was about to lose consciousness and be robbed, I started to get up before realising that it was in fact lavender oil and not rohypnol.

Feeling invigorated, I signed up to go rock climbing up one of the many cliffs in the canyon with three of the guys on my trip; they’re from the UK, Germany and Australia. Sebastian from Germany squirreled up the first course, something I can safely say wasn’t replicated by the rest of us. The start of the climb was really difficult as the footholds were really far apart and my little legs struggled. After four failed attempts, I had a rest and instead took over the support ropes for the others. Meda, our instructor, encouraged me to have one final attempt and somehow I made it to the summit. Abseiling down, I wore the biggest grin and felt such a sense of achievement. Ian, who has a fear of heights, decided to try again too after only previously making it halfway, and soon reached the top. It was great to see his elation at conquering a fear, and we’re all planning to go again when we reach Huarez in a couple of weeks.

On our second day in Baños, a few of us decided to try canyoning which is where you hike up a waterfall before abseiling down through the cascading water. We were in for a nasty surprise at the last waterfall however:

After such an exhilarating day, I decided to treat myself to coffee, cake and wifi. There’s a great cafe which enables you to buy food for homeless dogs, so I gave them enough for one week’s worth. It felt good to be able to help, even just a little. It’s Ken and mine’s one year anniversary today and he sent me pictures of himself reenacting our first date. Alone. It’s probably the first time since coming away that I’ve had pangs of homesickness. Thankfully lots of others in the group are in similar situations when wifi enables news from home, and they are happy to chat things through. The other climber, Matt, got engaged two weeks before he left on his six month adventure!!

Tomorrow we have a long drive day to Chugchilán via the spectacular highland scenery along the Quilotoa Loop, where we will embark upon one of the ‘most beautiful day treks in the whole of South America’. Until then….

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