Banos, Cuenca and the never ending journey to Peru

I spent the last week odd in Banos and Cuenca in Ecuador before heading across the border to Peru. The towns themselves didn’t really do much for me but I feel like the EPIC bus ride to Huaraz in Peru is worthy of a post on its own!

Banos is a town every backpacker you come across in Ecuador will rave about. It’s meant to be the adventure hotspot of Ecuador but the adventure is a bit of a mixed bag… yes, there are the normal hikes and waterfalls, Pailon del Diablo (The Devil’s Cauldron) being one of the most impressive waterfalls I’ve seen.

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Pailon del Diablo – Banos, Ecuador.

But then you get the other stuff – ‘highest swing’, catapult this and that, etc. All a bit gimmicky for me. I mean really, pay to sit on a swing and swing over a canyon? Ok, maybe I can see the appeal a bit…

I arrived in Banos at the arse crack of dawn and made my way to the hostel where I immediately fell asleep until the middle of the afternoon – bus trips aren’t pleasant experiences, especially with kamikaze drivers and windy roads.

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Pailon del Diablo – the Devil’s Cauldron – incredible waterfall!

I spent the better part of 3 days chilling in a cool coffee shop where I found the best coffee South America has to offer so far and proceeded to read 3 books. I ventured to the waterfall and did the odd hike but honestly, I didn’t get the appeal. I ask myself if something is wrong with me as I seem to be the only person that doesn’t rave about Banos. Hell, maybe I had overly zealous expectations.

I know many rave about the thermal baths and I was keen on giving them a bash but there isn’t a snowflakes chance in hell I will ever voluntarily get into water that brown and that crowded with other people. If I have to get Hep C, I’d choose other methods of infection.

From Banos, another delightful 7 hour bus ride awaited to get to Cuenca as I slowly made my way in the general direction of the Peruvian border.

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Cuenca

Now this is a town I like. It’s got the old Spanish architecture going on, the cathedrals are massive, the people are laid back and the food and ice-cream are excellent! I spent most of my time there exploring the old buildings (one of which was my hostel – old building in the process of being renovated – it had a creepy/cool feeling to it).

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Cuenca

The real adventure from this past week was getting from Cuenca across the Peruvian border and eventually reaching my destination – a town called Huaraz in the foothills of the Peruvian Andes (foothills may not be correct – it’s altitude is already more than 3000 m).

If I had to choose between night or day buses, I’d go for the day time ones as we have more of a fighting chance on the windy roads. This being said, most of the long distance buses are at night and in this case, I think it was so that we could reach the border during the wee, ‘quieter’ hours.

No such luck – after 4 hours in the bus, we arrived at the border and waited in a queue for 3 hours (could be worse – I had flash backs of the half-day we once spent at the South Africa/Zimbabwe border!)

Once eventually stamped out of Ecuador and into Peru, another 9 hours of bus time lay in front of me. I had the pleasure of sitting next to a lady that kept on wanting to steal my armrest. I know it’s childish but if you have the window, the armrest is mine, so I spent the 9 hours reclaiming my territory!

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My chariot across the Peruvian border. 33 hours and 3 different buses later, I’m in Huaraz!

9 hours later, the torture was still not even nearly over – I had to change bus terminals in Chiclayo and find the bus taking me to Trujillo – the bus gateway point for Huaraz. For reasons I don’t understand, many buses don’t arrive at a central terminal but rather at their company offices – this makes finding an onward bus a bloody nightmare.

I could wax lyrical about getting to Huaraz until the cows come home. The important thing is I arrived 33 hours after beginning the trip and survived the ascent of 3000m to Huaraz in the middle of the night on windy, gravel roads, in a double decker bus in the pitch dark. Fun times!

Huaraz is trekking territory and thats exactly how the next 2 weeks will be spent!

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