On the side of the road from Baños, heading toward Puyo, there is a waterfall called El Manto de la Novia. It sits on the opposite side of a large canyon from the road.
I pulled over when I saw the first of the signs marking the waterfall to ask about the cable car, also called a “Tarabita,” which the guidebook had described as “hair raising.” We got lucky, or unlucky depending on the way one views it, and the man I pulled over to ask about the cable car turned out to know how to operate the thing.
I must first say that the man moseyed out of the restaurant so casually that I thought he was there for lunch. I asked my questions about the tarabita and he beckoned us toward it. The tarabita was down a path behind the restaurant which appeared to be completely empty. He said the car would take us to the bottom of the canyon where we could get out, walk across the little bridge, and go see the waterfall. When we were ready to come back up we should wave at him then get back in the car. I asked about buying a ticket, but he said we should pay him when we came back up. He looked slightly more official when he put on ear protection to run the machine, so we went along with it.
The ride to the bottom absolutely fit with the description in the guidebook. During our ride we heard several people screaming from above us. Looking up, we could see that there were a number of cables running across the canyon and the people screaming were ziplining across the canyon.
We reached the bottom alive and went out to explore. We went across the bridge and headed toward the waterfall. There was a building that appeared to be a house with a little shop in it as well as a pool and some outdoor seating. There were three people in the middle of the path moving plants around, working on the garden. As we approached them, the woman who appeared to be in charge demanded money for walking across the property to the waterfall. We were baffled as the man at the top had said nothing about it. After a moment of confused questioning, I gave her the two dollars and walked to the waterfall. It was pretty, but you couldn’t get close to it.
We headed back to the tarabita and noticed a small sign stating the entry price that we had missed. Glad I paid her and didn’t argue too much. We waved to the man from our cable car and he dutifully pulled us back up.
We paid for the ride when we arrived to the top alive and went on our way. Our friendly conductor proceeded to pick up a plastic grocery bag with several styrofoam containers that looked like he ordered takeout and walk away from the empty restaurant and on down the road. There was still no one else in sight near the restaurant, but the whole scene was so odd, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a random restaurant patron who just happened to know how to run the machine and wanted to make three bucks on his lunch break. It was not the safest I’ve ever felt in a piece of machinery, but it seemed to function properly and he seemed to know what he was doing. We made it top to bottom and bottom to top again, so I have no complaints regardless of his employment status.
We later found out that we picked the only tarabita that runs top to bottom of the canyon. The others run across and I’m certain give a fantastic view of the canyon, the river, and the waterfall.