The term eco-tourism now refers to any activity that involves a bit of fresh air. And that’s fine. Anything that gets people off their couches, out of the malls or out from behind their entertainment screens is probably a good thing.
In the resort town of Baños de Agua Santa, sometimes called Baños de Ambato, not to be confused wirh Baños de Cuenca, we hopped on a small open air bus advertising a tour of local waterfalls. The waterfalls were as promised but the bus stopped at zip line and bungee-style thrill seeker sites scattered along the deep canyon.
Aside from a go-pro guy from Estonia we were the only non-local tourists so we rode along with Ecuadorians on vacation as they enjoyed such adventures, such as being hung by their heels and sent across a river gorge along a cable.
Admittedly, my idea of getting in touch with nature was formulated about 40 years ago when a friend and I ate some ‘shrooms and sat in a Idyllwild pine tree for an afternoon. I haven’t done it since but the love I felt from that tree left a lifelong imprint. So my notion of ecotourism might be a bit old-fashioned.
I am in no position to judge. The resources required to schlep my gringo butt to a remote place like this probably exceeds what a local family consumes in a year. And the carbon footprint of hundreds of people and buses going up and down this river gorge to fly spread-eagle and scare themselves half to death is far less than 10 minutes of rush-hour traffic in any major city.
Walking across a precarious foot bridge or zip-lining over a raging river is not my idea of fun. But just because I’m a snobby tree hugger doesn’t mean others shouldn’t fly through the canopy like birds.
You never know what formative experience will change a mind or shape a life. Perhaps one of these children gliding like Supergirl across the canyon will grow up to protect another like it. With intense pressure to drill for oil in the Amazon, perhaps some of these thrill seekers will vote for politicians that create a different future for the natural heritage of Ecuador.