Riding east out of Baños we cross a hydro-electric dam project and the River Pastaza so it will now be on our right side as we ride to Puyo. Puyo is one of the towns in the “Oriente” or eastern part of Ecuador known as the Amazonia region. I’m told from here you can get in a boat and float in rivers and streams that feed the Amazon River and you can go all the way to the Atlantic Ocean without ever getting out of your boat. That’s so far away that it seems unimaginable to me. But the Amazon River does begin here and is fed with water from the entire basin which extends to parts of Colombia and Peru too.
This road is known as the Ruta de las Cascadas – or Waterfall Highway, and has many waterfalls to stop and see along the way, especially after a fresh rain which regenerates some that may have run dry. There are also something like 7 tunnels along the road, one must be between a half mile and a mile long as it takes ages to get through it. Water splashes down on me as I ride through like riding through a car wash.
There are a lot of adventure sports in BAÑOS including paragliding, white water rafting (and you can choose different classes based on where you drop in and which river, but most is done along the Pastaza River), canyoning (which including climbing and rapelling in waterfalls), and more. Lots of places offer bicycle rentals so you can ride the 45-50 miles to Puyo (downhill thankfully) so you stop and enjoy the waterfalls at your leisure and the tour company will give you a return ride back to BAÑOS. It really is such a beautiful place.
We see a few waterfalls as we ride but since we are in all our gear and getting to most of the falls involves some hiking and bridge crossing, we don’t get to see them all. I hear Manto de la Novia (Bridal Veil Falls) and the Devil’s something-or-other (sorry I really have forgotten and can’t find the name now) are stunningly beautiful. The hiking trails through this valley are festooned (don’t think I’ve ever typed that word before, lol) with orchids, hummingbirds and other tropical loveliness.
And all the while we ride, we keep dropping in altitude. I can see the road ahead as it hugs this side of the river valley.
Up ahead I can see what I would call bluffs as the land flattens out and the river is left down below. This part of Ecuador, the Amazon region presents an incredible opportunity for exploring tribal communities and the lush jungle paradise….so maybe one day I can return to see it.
We ride into Puyo and gas up and keep riding, now turning south toward the town of Macas where we will spend the night. We cross the Rio Pastaza again and stop for a bite of lunch at a place on the river’s edge just past the bridge.
I go in search of some waterproof pants as mine have seemed to have lost their will. Got a bit wet today and tomorrow looks to be worse as we ride west again and through the high mountains. Macas had loads of places to stay and seemed like a nice little town. We enjoyed some shwarma and ice cream….and really you can’t ask for more than that.
Ruta de las Cascadas and the Amazon headwaters in Ecuador