So we arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador´s third largest city, and jolly pretty it is too.Managed to find a hotel for $5 a night each and set off to explore the city´s cobbled streets.Found an amazing panama hat shop with the sweetest old man who could hardly speak, but had scrap books full of his customers from around the world and pictures of him receiving awards for his quality hat making skills.Obviously we had to buy from this master craftsman, which has resulted in a daily struggle to keep them from getting squashed, but I think the coolness factor outweighs the inconvenience.
That night we bumped into the French guy who we´d met at Kuelap, Ben.He was feeling a bit under the weather but we still managed a good few drinks taking in Cuenca´s night life. Was great to meet up again and we swapped email addresses to try and meet up later in our trip.
Although Cuenca is very pretty, there isn´t actually that much to do there.We visited the mirador and did a bit of shopping, but after that it was time to move on to Banos, also known as ´The Gateway to the Amazon´.
Famous for it´s taffy and hot baths, Banos is a popular tourist spot and has lots to offer the adventure seeking traveler.On our first day we fought off rabid dogs and waded through muddy rivers to reach the zoo, about 2km out of town and straight up the main road, if we´d taken the sensible route.The zoo was great though, all the animals were so lively: toucans, parrots, monkeys, weird things I don´t know the names of and bears!They even had some uncaged monkeys swinging in the trees which seemed a bit unfair on the caged ones I thought, but everyone seemed very happy indeed and we spent a good 3 hours giving them voices and theme tunes.
Day two and we lazed about, finishing the day with a trip to the baths.6 pools of boiling hot to freezing cold water set beneath a natural waterfall and a sky full of stars.Tim attempted the plunge challenge, 7 hot pools and 7 cold ones one after the other, but I was content to watch from the comfort of my seat in the warmer sections.
After a heavy night out for St Patricks day, spent in the Irish bar of course, it was mine and Timmers 2 year anniversary.We celebrated with a 25km cycle ride toa waterfall which included an incredibly fast and pants wetting ride in a cage down a zip wire to see another waterfall on the way.The main attraction though, was a huge thundering cascade of water that was made even more impressive by the fact we could crawl through a tiny tunnel and stand behind it, inches away from the thundering monster.It was enough to take our breath away and I felt very small standing there getting drenched behind this gigantic force of nature.We hitched a ride back in a truck and in the evening Tim treated us both to an amazing meal of steak and steamed pears in the Swiss Restaurant. It really was a perfect day.
Having decided not to do the white water rafting in Banos due to polluted rivers and not much water, we set about planning our trip to Tena, the home of the water raft!