Well it was bound to happen eventually.
While I love a good thrill, I haven’t done nearly enough adventure activities on my travels. This is mostly because they usually cost quite a bit of money. To bungee jump in Australia for example, will run you $120+. For a traveler on a budget that kind of outlay for a 30 second adrenaline rush just isn’t feasible.
In Banos, the adventure capital of Ecuador, that’s not the case. There is a whole slew of adventure sports you can attempt for bargain prices- as long as you don’t mind a bit of shadiness and a total lack of safety precautions.
So here are some of the things I got up into in the past week, in both chronological order and order of bad-assery:
One of the most popular things to do in Banos is to rent a bike and attempt the 74 (?) km waterfall circuit. It’s an easy, mostly downhill ride (as long as you don’t accidentally take a right instead of a left and push your bike up a steep hill for 40 minutes before realizing your mistake. Ahem).
Along the ride you pass some very impressive waterfalls, some very sketchy looking zip lining locations and one bridge jump that we passed up on due to rain. We didn’t make it the entire 74 km of course, but did reach the Devil’s Falls, a truly impressive jet of water pouring over a solid cliff.
White Water Rafting
The last time I went White Water Rafting, I was 13 and tagging along with my Dad and his coworkers. I was psyched to try it again, and only slightly concerned that all of the urgent sounding safety instructions were delivered in incomprehensible Spanish.
Once we were on the river it didn’t matter though- I quickly mastered the commands for “paddle!” and “stop paddling!” Our sturdy raft bounced delightfully over rocks and rapids. It was hard work, and daring too, but so so fun.
And then came the grand finale. Ever since I’d heard you could jump off the San Francisco Bridge that leads into town I wanted to try it. I mean- who wouldn’t want to jump off a bridge for $20…. right?
Still, we kept putting it of until it was finally the last day of our stay in Banos. It was now or never. My enthusiasm had pretty much evaporated by the time we got to the almost deserted bridge.
The operation was… basic at best. There was no sign, no list of options, not even a waiver to sign. Just two dudes and some harnesses on a bridge. Well, basic is good right? Sort of?
The scariest bit of the whole process is the prelude to the jump. You have to climb over the railing and onto a tiny metal platform. You then have to stand fully erect, inch to the edge of the platform, put your hands up over your head and jump head first. Really.
Super scary, but I like doing things that scare me (link). I wanted to go first, I knew if I saw Mike do it than I might chicken out. While I waited I spent a few minutes throwing air punches and psyching myself up. After a morning of nerves I felt strangely calm when they belted me in. I didn’t want to prolong it like I’d seen other people do. To be coaxed up and out over the ledge. I’d rather just climb up, take a breath and jump.
And that’s what I did. It happened really fast, I climbed over the railing, inched my sneakers to the edge, counted to three and WHOOSH.
The falling was terrifying but it only lasted a second before the rope caught and I was swinging back in forth in wide arcs under the bridge, laughing my fool head off. The hard part was over and all that was left was to enjoy the view!
The problem with adventure sports is I think they might be addictive. I want to go white water rafting again, and canyoning and bungee jumping for real.
…. Although maybe I’ll save that last one for somewhere not in South America.