The Swing of Casa Del Arbol, Ecuador

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For the past few years, Carlos Sanchez, a volunteer with the Military Geographical Institute, has been assisting a group of a volcanologists by observing and recording the activities of the Tungurahua volcano from a lonely tree house he had built on a green mountaintop near Baños, Ecuador, less than a mile away from the volcano's crater. From this vantage point, Sanchez watches for potential pyroclastic flows that can rapidly move downslope towards the city of Baños, located at the foot of the volcano, 8 km (5 miles) to the north. Sanchez is equipped with a radio via which he can send alerts to the Observatory so that the inhabitants can be evacuated on time.

Sanchez’s family often visited him on his tree house on weekends, and to keep them entertained, he decided to build a simple wooden swing dangling from a branch that swung out over the edge of the mountainside. Then someone saw it and posted photos of this amazing swing on the internet, and now this place is swarming with tourists.

Woman swinging at the famous swing at the "End of the World" located at the La Casa del Árbol (The Treehouse) in Baños, Ecuador.

Photo credit: Mike Theiss/National Geographic

“I miss very much the time when it was peaceful and I came here with my three daughters,” muses Carlos Sanchez, who calls himself ‘the Volcano Watcher.’ “I miss a lot of that, sitting here and relaxing with myself. There used to be a lot of birds here.”

But there was a lot to gain from this exposure.

“My father-in-law and my brother-in-law, my sisters-in-law, they needed the money,” tells Carlos’s daughter-in-law, Malen Caicedo. “They weren’t rich. Now they have more money for better education for their children. But I miss very much.”

Visitors from all around the world trek to the mountaintop to ride the swing, enjoy picnics and leave notes in the tree house guest log. The variety of languages in the logbooks speak of how far and wide the swing’s fame has travelled. There are messages in Spanish, English, German, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. To date, Carlos has ten books filled to the brim.

In less than five years, the mountainside has developed into a swing-riding haven, with similar attractions dotting the hillside. But Carlos Sanchez’s Casa del Arbol, or “the Tree House”, sitting right at the top of the mountain is still the best. And the view is gorgeous. On a good, cloudless day, one can get a clear view of the active Tungarahua volcano, which means “throat of fire” in the native Quechua language of the Andes.

The media has given different names to the swing. “The swing at the edge of the world”, and “the swing of death” are the most common. Although it appears to hang over a dangerous cliff, the swing actually hangs over a steep slope that rolls down a distance of about 100 vertical feet. Still, you don’t want to fall off that thing.

Originally there was only one swing on the tree house, and it hung from a branch. Now out of safety concern, a steel beam was added from which the swing hangs now. A second swing was added as well. There is also a rudimentary seat belt now.

casa-del-arbol-swing-5

Photo credit: Rinaldo Wurglitsch/Flickr

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Photo credit: the Gringo/Flickr

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Photo credit: Michael/Flickr

@ Casa del Arbol II

La casa del árbol - Baños, Ecuador

the spectacular swing at la casa del arbol

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Photo credit: Rinaldo Wurglitsch/Flickr

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Photo credit: Freejpg/Flickr

Casa del Arbol

Casa del Árbol - Baños

Ecuador, Casa del Arbol

Sources: The Nimby / Life in Ecuador / STREVA / Alamy

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