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cycling to waterfalls in baÑos

(May 2006)

It rained all night and in the morning Baños was damp and overcast. Low clouds lingered around the hillsides. Nevertheless we decided to take the chance of getting drenched and after a quick breakfast of coffee and a roll we walked to a nearby hire shop, tested the frames, tyres and suspension of our bikes and pedalled out of town.

The road down to Puyo is single carriageway with many bends. At least drivers on this stretch are a little more used to braking for cyclists than in most other parts of Ecuador. I would still recommend wearing a helmet.

After a few kilometres we passed the hydroelectric plant at Ayogan and crossed over to the left (north) bank of the Rio Pastaza. Soon the road passed through several tunnels in the cliff face. A rough track (the old road) led around the two longer tunnels but it was necessary to edge cautiously through the shortest.

Emerging from one tunnel we found another river plummeting under a bridge to join the Pastaza. A group was setting up to jump off the bridge. It was possible to climb down the rocks to feel the cold clean water.

A path leads along the slope on the other side of the river to connect with several small villages located at the entrances to narrow valleys. We passed two places where cables led over the river. On request an operator on the other side would send over the little metal cage which connected the villages to main road. We took the second of these tarabitas which reached land close to the point where a meandering stream suddenly arrived at the cliff edge and gushed over in a dramatic waterfall. A restaurant offered various fish options for lunch and paths led through the beautiful small village and up into the valley, passing lemon and orange trees.

When we returned to our bikes we continued on, quicker now because the lunchtime sunshine and been replaced by dark, threatening clouds. At last we arrived at the access to the Pailon del Diablo. We chained up our bikes and followed the stepped path down through lush vegetation with the sound of charging water getting ever closer until we emerged at a bridge where he waterfall was revealed. Over time the water has carved out a sheer cliff in the rock as it edges away from the natural platform constructed to view this impressive sight.

Back on the main road we took a ride back to Baños in a little truck along with a few other travellers. It is also possible to hail passing buses who will take you back.



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