I appreciate that the traditional way to get to a waterfall is to hike to it, but when I was in Baños, Ecuador, I discovered another way: party bus. There’s a series of waterfalls along Rio Pastaza just outside of town. You can bike it, but if you are still suffering from a sprained ankle in pursuit of a different set of waterfalls, for example, that option becomes less appealing. So you can take a chiva instead.
“Chiva” means “goat” in Spanish, and in several Latin American countries, it’s the nickname given to party buses: covered, open-sided trucks outfitted with disco balls and massive sound systems. The chivas used for the waterfalls tours are equipped with rows of benches, too. I joined a few other tourists and we enjoyed the bizarre experience of being blasted with loud salsa music in the early afternoon as we sped along a two-lane highway.
Of course, the guide talked in Spanish, so I only understood a little, but frankly, you don’t need to understand words to appreciate a waterfall. We went in a cable car that zipped us across a ravine, to the edge of two waterfalls, which tumbled into the river below as we swung on the cable above. Party bus and then cable car door-to-door service–there are lots of ways to get to a waterfall.
After an interlude wherein the guide wheedled and cajoled to get us all to go on his friend’s zipline, we carried on to the final stop. Here, we had a twenty-minute walk along a beautiful path, down a tricky bit of hill, to a wooden bridge. This was a serious bridge–it was so steep, you had to hold on to a rope anchored to the shore, and use it to walk midway down the bridge. The bridge swayed in the breeze, but once you held on to the sides to steady yourself, you could look around and appreciate the biggest waterfall of the day, roaring down the side of the nearby hill.
The music on the ride back into town was just as loud as the ride out had been, although now we were all pumped up from seeing the waterfalls, we were more ready to groove along. Baños–the only place I’ve been where you can reggaeton your way to a natural wonder.