Home > Ecuador > Chimborazo: Ecuador’s Highest Volcano (Part Two)

Chimborazo: Ecuador’s Highest Volcano (Part Two)

ChimborazoAt over 17.000 feet above sea level, the air is light, crisp, thin, soothing… As I look behind me, over and over again, feeling so close to that gigantic mass of glaciers and snow, I think repeatedly of how Simon Bolivar may have felt at those heights, low on oxygen, prompting him to write his “Delirium over Chimborazo”…. And, as every other time I have been there, I feel this strange impulse to race uphill and go touch those dazzling white pieces of prehistoric ice….. But rationality and the advice of my travel companions tell me it is not a good idea to “race” uphill.  I could try to do it, perhaps with Marco’s training, but on a slow, step by step and technically programmed climb. Such are the emotions that a mountain like Chimborazo produces….

Juan Carlos is busy taking pictures, while Sue and Sofia play with the baby vicunas and some of the less shy llamas… some of them are white, others brownish, others mixed colored…. But all of them are just cute creatures of the heights, fortunately now protected under the rules and regulations of the Chimborazo Fauna Reserve and Ecuador’s National Protected Area’s System….  Unable to fulfill my high altitude running desire, I walk over the slightly wet low pampas grass…. A small creek flows downhill carrying crystal clear water and alongside there are some pretty “chuquirahua” plants, the flower symbol of Ecuador’s Andes… From certain angles I can clearly see, far on the southeastern horizon, the towering steep-sloped perfect cone of the mighty Sangay Volcano, neatly showing a thin plume of volcanic vapor rising into the blue sky..

We cannot leave the Star of Chimborazo Camp and Mountain Lodge without a horseback ride taking us over a steady trail headed south, catching new and more glorious views of Chimborazo, the highest mountain on Ecuador’s unique Avenue of Volcanoes.  High above flies a “Curiquingue”, a large raptor from the falcon’s family, searching for prey….hope he or she is not fancying us…. Sadly, it is time to return, so we leave the nicely saddled horses and return to our van, riding back towards Riobamba, the central Andean city where Ecuador’s first Constitution was written in 1830.  It is also the hometown of Ecuador’s most prominent scientist, Pedro-Vicente Maldonado, who joined the International Geodesic Mission which determined the position of the Equator in 1736, giving the country’s its name…The churches and squares teem with people, the colonial architecture prevails on its homes, and the cobble-stoned streets give the city an atmosphere of bygone times… The market is bustling today and blocks of vendors sell from flowers to poultry; from “quinoa”, a local and rich grain, to world class blue jeans, made in Ecuador….

Marco would not let us leave without having lunch with his lovely family at his beautiful home in the outskirts of Riobamba.  The house, decorated exquisitely, is to a good extent a Museum, guarding from colonial paintings and sculptures to priceless books and Marco’s immense collection of Ecuador and World mountains pictures…. Silver, bronze and copper objects share space with tapestries and the large picture windows allow clarity and views of the splendid greenery around from anywhere inside the house.  Ximena, Marco’s charming wife is a truly fantastic hostess and their two daughters a delight to talk to… Time for lunch and we are treated to a very local “ceviche de chochos” (chochos are a local grain, rich in protein, known to some people as “lupine”) followed by the traditional “hornado de Riobamba”, delicious roasted slices of pork meat with the natural juice of tomatoes and onions, scattered over the platter, which comes accompanied by crackling pieces of pork skin and “llapingachos”, potato patties filled with cheese and served with small braised sausages…. Red wine makes perfect match for the banquet which terminates with “babaco”, a local fruit, related to papaya, but different in many ways, served on its own sweet juice…..

Sadly, we leave Marco and his family, hugs and good-byes, as we begin our still tremendously scenic three hour ride back to Quito on the Pan American Highway, leaving the reign of Chimborazo and headed for the premises of Tungurahua, Cotopaxi and Pichincha, the imposing volcanoes which so much impressed Humboldt two centuries ago and which continue to fascinate every fortunate traveler, tourist or explorer who roams the magic Ecuadorean land…..

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