Postcards from Ecuador: Chasing waterfalls in Baños and a swing through the clouds

Day eight for the Honors College study abroad program in Ecuador saw the group sally from its new base camp in the city of Baños. Nestled in the Andean cloud forest at about 6,000 feet at the foot of the active volcano Tungurahua, Baños is the gateway town between both the Andes highlands and the Amazon.

Densely forested peaks reach down below into steep river valleys, and just like back home, the combination of rain and steep valley produces some spectacular waterfalls, giving the road to Baños the nickname “La Ruta de las Cascadas.” This was the destination for the day, exploring waterfall sites such as Manto de la Novia (Bridal Veil), Agoyán, and finishing at the Pailón del Diablo, a majestic spear of free-falling water that thunders hundreds of feet from a narrow notch in a cliff face. A route carved from the living rock and spanned by long suspension bridges allows access to just below where the roaring volume of water begins its plummet into the gorge.

The sight was spectacular.

“I love water, and it was so fun to be down from those falls in the spray and seeing the power of it up close,” said Jenavieve Barson of Springville, Utah, a behavioral neuroscience major. “You can actually feel it in the rock, it’s just incredible.”

The day’s activities ended at the Casa del Arbol earthquake monitoring station and the Swing at the End of the World, with students swinging out into the clouds.

Back in Baños, the group focused on getting laundry done (some clothes are ready to walk home on their own at this point) and preparing for the night’s cooking class.

Tomorrow: The long climb in the Night Bus to Riobamba and a long hike on the slopes of Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest peak at more than 20,500 feet.


See a collection of photos from the trip, updated daily, at our photo gallery.

Students walk on a suspension bridge toward the Pailon del Diablo waterfall.
A student appears to float in the clouds as they ride the Swing at the End of the World at the Casa del Arbol in Baños.