You have to love a town that has free parking on the street… where bikes travel at the same speed as cars…. where a taxi ride anywhere in town or a smoothie costs $1… where you bump into the same person you met the day before in the supermarket… where there are no malls…. and mountains and waterfalls and rivers dominate the landscape… or when you here a loud boom and you’re not sure if was a car back firing or the nearby volcano blowing off steam… where 60 degrees is considered a terribly cold winter day. Every evening many of the men in town gather for some heated Ecuavolley games. On Thursdays, the taxi drivers meet at the nearby cancha (soccer field) for a friendly match.
Weekdays are “tranquilo” but on the weekends the streets awaken to the aroma of grilled “cuy” (guinea pig) permeating the air, tourists strolling through the parks with an ice cream in hand, taffy makers slapping rope lengths of the candy against the wall and offering free samples. Bicycles are everywhere and go-cart dune buggies rumble towards the Route of the Waterfalls.
There’s a Latin rhythm to Baños that is upbeat and easygoing. The town thrives on tourism but nothing about it is fancy or pretentious. While the surrounding mountains provide a spectacular backdrop, the town’s buildings are cement blocks often in need of paint with rebar sticking out of the top waiting for a second floor. There are plenty of restaurants where you can get a meal for $2, and others where you can splurge for delicacies such as steak-on-stone ($8). There are lots of ice cream parlors and two chocolate shops. People are friendly, and many are starting to recognize us as not the average gringo tourists. We keep showing up. All the stores close between 1pm and 3pm for workers and school kids to return home to share almuerzo (lunch) with their families. There are many soccer and Ecuavolley courts, but only one tennis court with cracks and a net full of holes. We’ve played a few times using the hotel’s only two racquets (bent and without handgrips) and three very worn balls.
This is our home for now, and we are enjoying it.