Published: May 24th 2010May 8th 2010
Mostly covered in cloud
My first impression of Riobamba was good. Although Riobamba has many old buildings and appears a bit run-down I felt safe walking around the town and there´s plenty of shops if you need to buy something. It´s main tourist attraction is the train to the Nariz del Diablo (Devil´s Nose). Unfortunately, the most spectacular/scenic part of the train ride is closed for six months (from March 2010) for repair work. The official re-opening has not been confirmed. As I didn´t think it worth riding the train for only half the journey I decided to give the train ride a miss and concentrated on my main reason for coming to Riobabma - to book a cycling trip to Chimborazo.
On Saturday, I visited a couple of biking agents with a view of booking a one day trip to Chimborazo.
My preferred company was Probici run by Galo Brito. Galo spent approx an hour explaining (in almost perfect English) the itinery for his trip and I preferred his route to the other company I had already spoken to as he went off-road rather than returning to Riobamba on the road - this I felt would be a more enjoyable route.
was nothing planned for the next day yet but Galo promised to contact me if someone else booked something later that afternoon.
Luckily I recieved a message later that day to confirm that the biking was one for Sunday so I returned to be fitted for the correct size bike and safety equipment (helmet, knee and shoulder pads and gloves).
At 8am the next morning, I was collected from the hotel. The weather looked promising as we drove to Chimborazo, bright with fairly clear skies, which took approx 2 hours with Galo explaining points of interest on the way. We passed a fighting bull breeding farm en route - apparently Riobamba has it´s own bull ring and is an important town for bull fighting after Quito.
We stopped approx 5km from the 1st refuge and hiked to a small forest of trees. This hike took about 1 hour most of which was uphill, but was worth it as we could see Chimborazo from a different angle.
We drove to the hut where the entrance fee of 10 USD is paid (students and volunteers can get a discount on the entrance fee upon production of the appropriate card)
and then continued to the 1st refuge hut ready to walk up the mountain to the 2nd refuge hut. The walk up to the 2nd refuge took approx 40mins. The height here is 5000m and the man managing the hut gave us a welcome cup of Coca tea. Unfortunately, the clouds had now started to cover the top of the mountain and by the time we started to walk down to unload the bikes it had started snowing.
We set off down the mountain on bikes following the path the van had taken up the mountain earlier. As the group was small, Galo followed in the van. The terrain was quite bumpy but the bikes handled the rocks and bumps well (they looked brand new). There were 3 of us in the group and we all sufferred from the cold made worse by the very strong wind and sleet As the next part of the journey was going towards Riobamba and would have meant biking into the bad weather (dense clouds reducing visibility and now sleet), we decided to cycle a different route taking us to Ambato, apparently away from the bad weather. This was not my first choice but probably a good idea due to the weather. The route was approx 35km mostly downhill with some flat sections and all on proper roads. We cycled with the mountains either side of us through sparsley populated countryside. The people living in this area were mostly indiginous Ecuadoreans some living in huts with thatched rooves.
Unfortunately, just after we started cycling it started raining intensely and didn´t stop until approx 5km before the end of the ride (hence no photos of the scenary). As we were now considerably lower in altitiude, it was warmer so the rain was not too much of a problem.
After approx 1.5 hours, we reached the outskirts of Ambato where the bikes were loaded back on to the van. The other two members of the group were dropped at the bus station so they could return to their hostal.
The drive back to Riobamba took approx 1 hour. Despite the bad weather forcing a change of route, the biking was good and worth the effort. If I´d had more time or if I intended to return to Riobamba again when I knew the weather was better, I would definately try the same route again and with the same company.