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Published: November 16th 2010
With the early mornings and packed days we're not finding much time for this blog … but we're not gonna stress about it … We're on holiday ! … 8o)
So... Sat 6 to Sun 7 Nov – Tour of the Volcanoes and Devil's Nose Train Ride
We were picked up from our hotel at 07.00 by Alex (the guide) and Gustavo (the driver). It turns out it's a private tour as we're the only people on it. Sleep deprivation is really kicking in now and it's difficult to hide when the guide is talking directly to us alone.
Set off on the 'Avenue of the Volcanoes' which follows the Pan-American Highway. This passes spectacular snow-capped volcanoes in the distance every half hour.
We turned off the highway down a dirt track towards Cotopaxi National Park and the surroundings totally changed, no more busy highway with lots of traffic. Cotopaxi is the world's tallest (5893m high) continually active volcano and it dominates the vast park that it is set in. It wasn't very active the day we saw it though... We walked along Laguna Limpiopungo and from there drove up towards the first base camp on
the volcano where the landscape takes on a lunar look, passing wild horses on the way. We were at an altitude of 4,500m and saw others trekking up the volcano to the base camp but for us walking a few yards made us breathless and slightly dizzy. At this point, the clouds cleared and we could clearly see the snow-capped peak – a truly spectacular sight.
We left the park, heading for a lunch stop in Ambato. We opted for a restaurant full of locals with guinea pig and rabbit roasting on open spits. We went for guinea pig with potatoes and a peanut sauce. Thank God there were potatoes as there was no meat on the guinea pig! The skin had turned to crackling. I'm (Ken) not that keen on pig crackling so grilled guinea pig skin doesn't really do it for me.
After lunch we drove on through Hermoso Valley on our way towards Riobamba, where we would stay overnight. There were ravines with waterfalls and cute houses covered in bouganvillea along the way and we stopped briefly at a nice little town called Banos. Here the guide took us to a look out point to
show us bungee jumping off a bridge.
He joked about me having a go and I said 'Yeah!'. So ten minutes later I was harnessed up and standing on the guard rail of a bridge looking down into a ravine. Great fun !
At this point my camera battery died and Bernie's battery warning light came on … Oh no ! The guide was brilliant and he agreed to put my SD card in his camera and from that point he became our official photographer.
Then on to our Hacienda for the night with a stunning sunset as a backdrop to Chimborazo. Didn't know what to expect, we thought it might be a small place and we'd be having dinner with the family. We were wrong - it was a beautiful old place, wood panelled and looked like something out of Bonanza, there were bar stools made with saddles and a real wood fire burning in the restaurant and our room had one of the biggest beds I've ever seen.
Barcelona football team were staying the night but we had no idea who they were even though most of them were wearing their football kit in
the hotel. Strange. They were a bit lively but it didn't keep us awake, all those early starts were taking their toll. Sun 7 Nov
A 5am start to catch the 0635 train towards the Devil's Nose. 'Train' is not really an accurate description, it's an old bus that's been converted to run on the railway tracks. We were hoping to ride on the roof of the 'train' but a little while ago a couple of tourists were decapitated by low-hanging electric wires! We had heard that they had started allowing it again but sadly this was not true. And … the most spectacular part of the journey – The Devil's Nose – is closed at the moment so our journey was cut short by a little bit. It was still a great train ride, with stunning views and glimpses of real country life with a stop at Balbanera church at Colta, Ecuador's oldest church. We are so glad that we did this.
We were then driven to Chimborazo National Park where once again the landscape was spectacular. Here we passed llamas, alpacas and vicuños.
On the way back to Quito we stopped at Salcedo, a
town dedicated to making ice-creams and ice-lollies with streets and streets of identical shops selling identical lollies. We tried the local home-made ice-lolly. It was a hot day and they were very welcome.
The next day was a 420am (!!) wake up for an early flight to Lima, Peru.
During our nine days in Ecuador we did not meet one unfriendly person. What a fantastic country. Hope to go back one day.
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