Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Arrived in Baños

This morning we were woken by birdsong and some sinister scratching on the roof of our room. Sarah gave me a nudge as it sounded ominously like our ratty friends that scurry across the roof space in North Wraxall. Like any husband worth his salt, I dismissed the scratching to avoid having to investigate. In the end, the scratching became to persistent to deny so I admitted defeat and got up to investigate. As it happened, it was just a large bird walking across a corrugated plastic skylight in the roof. I knew that all along!

Baños is a small town located at the base of an active volcano, Tunguruhua. As we approached the town of Ambato where we turned off the Pan-American highway we could see the caldera of the volcano peeking through the top of the cloud layer. The volcano is constantly spewing out a stream of volcanic gas into the slate grey sky. Tungurahua is probably the most closely monitored volcano in South America and the activity levels are constantly posted on the Smithsonian volcanic activity monitoring website if you’re interested.

The valley that is home to Baños is carved deeply by the river that runs along the base of the valley so that the sides rise steeply up towards the volcano. As it happens, the valley is so steep that you can’t see the caldera from the town itself. Tomorrow we plan to do a day hike to an area up above the town that affords us a fantastic view across to the cone.

Initially, the town was best known for its thermal baths. There are a number of the mineral springs dotted around the town with pools that range from scorching to baltic. We plan to sample the restorative waters before our walk in the morning. In recent years, the town has become something of a mecca for outdoor activities. Small agencies have appeared all over town offering guided activities that range from canyoning to multi-day jungle adventures. Given Sarah’s natural predisposition towards bugs and creepy crawlies, I suspect that we will stick to rafting and abseiling down the numerous waterfalls (the bike embargo has remained for the time being). Today we are heading off to do a half day of rafting on some class IV rapids half an hour down the valley. It will be Sarah’s first time rafting so there is a mixture of excitement and trepidation in the air.

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