Biking the route of the waterfalls is one of the universally advertised activities to do while in Baños, and given that bikes only cost $5 a day, who were we to say no. The road starts in town and descends along the river valley leading to Puyo, at the edge of the Amazon basin.
The entire route is about 60 km, but it was suggested that it’s not really worth riding more than the first 20 or so, as that’s where all the waterfalls are. After that it’s mostly just more downhill with slight changes in the vegetation as the habitat transitions from cloud forest to jungle.
We set off, and the first bit was somewhat nerve-wracking, as it’s along the same road as the big logging trucks and intercity buses use, and they don’t slow down or make space for you. We were spooked a few times, and had to make sure to be careful.
But as we got a few kilometers into the ride, there were nice bypasses around the big tunnels, from which we could look out at the waterfalls dropping into the valley below.
The surroundings were stunning, with the lush cloud forest everywhere. There were even places where we had water dripping off overhangs onto us as we rode by.
The highlight was the final waterfall of the day, called Pailon del Diablo. We had to walk about 20 minutes from the canyon rim down to the river, where a beautiful lodge had been built, including a rope bridge to better view the falls.
When we got down to the bottom, we could look back up at the wall of the gorge, which were striated in really interesting patterns. I’m quite curious what sort of geological process would have produced that.
We hiked up towards the cascade, along a narrow, wet path, and as we arrived, the trail actually went into a very low cave back behind the falls. It was a pretty cool experience, and the falls were quite impressive.
After enjoying our bike ride, we sat by the side of the road near Machay and waited for a passing bus to take us abroad as we ate our lunch. That’s right, the usual bread and avocados, this time using a toothpick as our knife!
They nicely stowed our bikes underneath and we relaxed on the way back to Baños. Overall, it was a really nice outing, though my butt was sore for a few days after not having biked in about a year.
Logistics (October 2013):
Costs per person.
Bike Rental: $5 / day (make sure to ride the bike around the block to check brakes, shifting, tire pressure)
Entrance to Pailon del Diablo: $1.50
Entrance to the next waterfall, with swimming area: $1 (we didn’t end up going, but it would probably be fun)
Bus ride from Machay back to Baños: $2