Baños is a small, pretty, colourful town, surrounded by mountains and close to the Tungurahua volcano. It's quite touristy with lots of souvenir shops and many agents organising activities in the surrounding area. The town is famous for the sweets that are made there and there are several shops dedicated to them where I also watched them making the sweets. The local people seemed to be very friendly and I felt a lot more safe and relaxed there than in Quito.
The bus from Tena to Baños weaved through the mountains and passed through several tunnels. I managed to leave a bag with my sandals and my wet clothes from the jungle on the bus and had a bit of a panic trying to retrieve them but thankfully got them back the next day.
When we arrived we went for a quick walk around town before hiking up to the Bellavista look-out point from where we could see the whole town below and the volcano above. Back in town, I had churrasco for lunch - steak with two fried eggs, chips, rice and salad - mmmmm. In the evening we went to a nice Italian restaurant but I had a cold and wasn't feeling good so I had an early night.
The following day we hired bikes and cycled for 17km through the countryside, stopping to see a few waterfalls along the way. It rained for a lot of the time so we got quite muddy! At one point there was a bridge where people could jump off attached to a rope and a few of the guys had a go. At another point we took a cable car across the gorge to get a closer view of one of the waterfalls. We finished at the huge Pialón del Diablo waterfall, which was quite impressive. From that point there were trucks that would take us and our bikes back to town.
In the evening it was Joel's birthday so we went for a nice dinner and then on to a bar. I was still under the weather so couldn't stay out late - by all accounts I missed a heck of a party!
The next day Rita and I went for breakfast in town and then hiked up to the Virgen lookout point, where there is a large marble statue of Mary and baby Jesus. Along the path leading up there are carvings of the stations of the cross.
Afterwards we visited the beautiful Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Agua Santa church in town and then met up with some of the other girls to go to the thermal baths (after which the town is named). The baths weren't the idyllic haven I had imagined - they were in a very dilapadated and uninviting building - but it was fun nonetheless. We alternated between the icy cold pool and the murky yellow hot pool. There we met a funny lady, Alissa, who was from the nearby town of Ambato but had lived in the US for 20 years - she was telling us all sorts about the baths, about Ecuador and about her life.
In the evening we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner and picked up some snacks for the 11 hour bus ride to Cuenca the next day (which was my birthday!).