Chimborazo is over 6000 m high and beautiful with its snow-covered peaks. During our stay at Chinipamba it beckoned us every day. Longtime considered as the highest mountain on the planet, Chimborazo was dethroned by the Himalayan and Peruvian peaks. Nevertheless, considering the geometry of the Earth, this summit is known as the farthest point from its center, that’s what a plaque at the park entrance says.
Not that we had any plans to climb it, but we wanted to hike to the first refugio (Carrel) and since it is at around 4800 m it required the acclimatization.
So we spent a night at the park entrance and then took off the next morning.
It doesn’t seem far when you go up, but the slow pace makes it a longer hike than expected. Günter went up to the lake while I crawled up the trail with my body calling for more oxygen. I was also enthralled by the hundreds of vicuñas that can be seen poking around in the area. They had been hunted to extinction in Ecuador and were imported again from Peru, Bolivia and Chile in 1980. They are a protected species of the Andes.
Here the name Alexander von Humboldt cropped up again, he did amazing work during the years he spent in South America. In 1802 he and a French climber made it to the 5883 m level of Chimborazo, but had to turn around just short of scaling the peak. The Italian J.A Carrel and British climber E. Whymper eventually were the first to reach the top.
When we came back down there were several people headed up the trail, it seems to be quite popular. We had enough of the cold and thin air and went to Riobamba. A laid back town, nice to just walk around. On day two we did just that and heard music coming from the area of the train station, we followed the music and suddenly were confronted with an incredible sight. A sea of colours, people, dressed in the native costumes, from all the areas of Chimborazo province. On the stage were politicians holding fiery speeches, the band was playing local music and the people were cheering. We read in the paper the next day that there were over 30 000 people at this demonstration. It was great for us to be able to see so many people from different mountain towns. Their outfits, colors and hats changed by town and area. White alpaca felt hats with baubles, or gold bands, short brim, wide brim, dark felt fedoras with peacock feathers or flower pins.
Cuenca is a beautiful colonial town and has it all. Great weather, nice restaurants and a tree-shaded river to go for walks. It has thermal pools at the edge of town where you can get pampered, great hiking trails in the hills surrounding the town. And it has “Gringolandia”, an area that is very popular with North American Expats. We met three of them in a coffee shop and got some insight into expat life here. It sounds some of them are now moving to Colombia and Bolivia, the new “hot spots” for foreign retirees.An adventurous bunch those baby boomers (we are boomers too, I keep forgetting).
We camped at a hacienda near Cuenca, Hosteria Caballo Campana is a colonial family-run Hacienda hidden in the forests. They breed horses and have beautiful stables and arenas. The owners were very welcoming and nice. I loved waking up to the smells and sounds of horses, could have hung out longer.