The town of Baños is on the lower slopes of the Tungurahua volcano, and very much under its influence. The volcano is active with frequent eruptions, and the town lives under the threat of evacuation, and on our drive in from the Andean highlands in 2009 we passed areas where heavy construction equipment was clearing away the rock from the volcano.
We visited Baños as part of a tour of Ecuador’s volcanoes. Low cloud kept us from seeing the peak of Tungurahua, but we did enjoy other things. We started in the main church, Basílica Católica Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Agua Santa, where the walls were lined with numerous paintings of dire events, all of which represented the Virgin Mary intervening to save the sad victim. The one I remember most was of a person crossing a gorge on a rope cable car, when the rope broke.
The scene of that tragedy-averted was the Puente San Francisco on the edge of Baños. But we drove 7
uphill (but downstream) along the valley of the Rio Pastaza to try to do the same thing. We were to cross the valley on a simple cable, the Tarabita Manto de la Novia—
the cable car at the Bride’s Veil waterfall.
This device differed little from that in the painting in the church, though the steel cables looked in good shape—I checked! It consisted of a sort of welded steel cage dangling from the cable, and capable of carrying (cosily!) up to six as it swung its way high across the gorge. Quite an experience and a great view along the valley and especially down onto the Manto de la Novia waterfall.
This is a practical and useful ferry over the river, though I suspect most traffic these days is touristic. Baños now has a reputation as a centre for adventure sports, and there are I believe three tarabitas
along the Ruta des Cascadas (the E30) as it heads out of town towards the jungle.
This gorge marks the junction between the Andean highlands and the Amazon basin. We took the walk back down to the bottom of the gorge through the lush vegetation and enjoyed the flowering orchids.
We crossed back over the river on a simple suspension bridge which had plenty of rotten boards. I think it more likely the Virgin’s intervention would have been needed for that bridge than for the tarabita.