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El sendero de los contrabandistas

Location: Banos, Ecuador
Date of hike: February 2012 (and March 2012 again)
Time: 3-4 hours one way (take bus for return trip)

This was our favorite hike in Banos and one of the lesser known. We were only able to do it with the advice of someone who had done it multiple times before and even then, we got lost more than once.

About the trail: The trail is about 8-10 km’s (depending on what sign you read). It is relatively flat but a couple of big climbs. It took us about 4 hours but we had about a 40 min. detour when we took the wrong path. We hiked to San Pedro and then took a cable car back to the other side of the river. Apparently, the trail goes on but is not well maintained past San Pedro.

To start the hike: Take a bus out of town towards Puyo, Rio Verde, Rio Negro or Agoyan. Bus fare was .25 per person and it took maybe 10 minutes. You will get off the bus right before the first bridge (Puente Agoyan). The trail is on your right and there’s a large sign with a map about the trail.

After passing the first cable car, you will cross a bridge and you want to take the trail to the right. The sign says you can go both ways but when we tried the way to the left, a man told us it would cost $1 each and that we should go back to the other trail. There is a view of a waterfall from his property so it may be worth the $1. We’re not sure if you can get to the trail from there but it seemed possible.

After the first hour, you will come to the biggest climb. Take your time and go slow. The views are spectacular so stop often.

You will come to a point in the trail where it appears to dead-end into an old man’s house. The trail continues around the left side of his house. He came out and showed us the way. Other people have said he charged money to pass but he didn’t ask us for money.

Right after his house the trail makes a Y. Go to the right, do not go down! Down leads to the man’s fields and is a steep hike down and then, to correct, a steep hike back up. This ate up about an hour of our time and took most our energy. The trail to the right has a gate, but you just go through the gate (make sure to close it again.)

You’ll go through 2 or 3 more gates. The trail is harder to follow but look for the most well defined trail and you’re set.

Right before San Pedro, you’ll come to a river that you need to cross. Go to your right when you come to the Y and continue on the well-defined trail. It will lead to a bridge upstream and then there’s a trail back down to the house with the cable car. Take the cable car across. They will charge you $1 per person on the other side. They are taking photos and video from the other side (smile!) that you can buy for $5.

There really isn’t much of a restaurant there but we took a truck down to Rio Verde and had a great trout lunch at Casa Vieja (opposite the start of the Pilon del Diablo). A full trout with sides cost $4.50 a plate-Yum!

We caught a truck back to Banos for $1.50 each. An amazing day!

Update March 2012: We took Abby’s mom on this trail and apparently it had rained recently. The trail is rather treacherous after a rain and basically consisted of us slipping and sliding for 3 hours.

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