So I´ve had a very very brief stay here in Baños but still managed to have a brilliant time, and at least done (pretty much) all the water-related activities I could reasonably have done (I was tempted to do a bridge jump because I´m a crazy reckless fool, but in the end decided against it because I quite enjoy being alive). 

I took the bus from Quito a bit later than planned (i.e. it took longer than I thought to get there and back from La Mitad del Mundo) so I did end up arriving in the dark to Baños bus station after roughly a 4 hour journey – slightly longer than expected but pretty pleasant as far as bus journeys go. I got excessively excited when the famous(ish) volcano came into view but I haven´t really seen it much since I´ve been here (it´s difficult to distinguish between cloud-topped mountains and the volcano as far as I can tell). Managed to find the hostel okay; luckily I had a helpful business card that I swiped from my Quito hostel with a little map on the back – admittedly I missed the street the first time round but the locals here are so nice and helpful (a first impression that has been upheld by all my subsequent encounters with them).

The best thing about this hostel thus far (and actually there are quite a lot of good things about it) was that I arrived to the pleasant surprise of a free dinner – spag bol on the house, result! Breakfast is also included, and there´s another free dinner tonight so basically I have very positive feelings towards the whole experience (not that my life revolves around food or anything (it does)). 

The first night here I met an American and a Canadian (there are SO MANY CANADIANS in South America) who are both really cool and today I went biking through the mountains with Cara, leaving the guy (never asked his name, oops) to do his insanely intensive 4 HOUR SPANISH LESSON WHAT. But we had a brilliant day, hired bikes in the morning and biked up to the hot springs (such a dumb idea, it was so steep that you couldn´t actually do any cycling) and spent an enjoyable couple of hours there (sporting attractive shower caps, which were obligatory) before heading off to the cascades. I now have many many pictures of scenery which I have no doubt will be really boring to look at afterwards but honestly, the ride was incredible (a bit scary in parts, it was mostly on the road) and the views were awesome. I found it quite difficult to cycle and not let myself get distracted by all the mountains surrounding us.

It took forever but we did eventually make it to our intended destination: Pailon del Diablo, the mother of all the multiple waterfalls that there are here. It was a 15ish minute downward hike to get there from where we parked our bikes, and you had to pay $1.50 to see it, but OH MY GOD was it worth it. It´s one of those things that I just won´t be able to do justice through attempting to describe it, but trust me it was incredible. We got very soaked and took some pictures and then began the long journey back up. Thankfully we didn´t have to bike all the way back (which would have been predominantly uphill), thanks to the very reasonably priced service of a pickup truck that takes bikers and their bikes back into town. 

Once we got back into town we delivered the bikes back to the shop and then wandered back to the hostel via one of the many taffy shops that there are scattered through the streets. Having never tried taffy I was just generally a bit fascinated by it, and they make it right there in front of it, chucking this mass of sugary deliciousness over a hook on the wall again and again, and after a free sample I couldn´t resist buying a little bag of the stuff. 

Just got tonight here and then it´s on to Cuenca – for which I´m planning to allow plenty of time; it´s apparently an 8 hour journey via Riobamba and I´d rather not arrive in the dark if I can help it. Managed to get sunburnt again today (it is so ridiculously easy to do) so clearly I haven´t yet learnt my lesson – still got 6 weeks to do so, though. 

Looking forward to my free dinner and it should be nice to chill out in Cuenca. Let´s hope my first long bus journey is bearable, eh?