Home > Ecuador > A fantastic journey around Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador’s Andes, Part two

A fantastic journey around Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador’s Andes, Part two

May 19, 2012

A short hike uphill, over high mountain moorlands and pampas vegetation, provides us with startling visions of the beautiful “frailejones” and “chuquirahuas”, the Andean flowers’ most notorious symbols.  Curious llamas, especially young ones, follow us, presumably hoping to be handed over some food.  Several children from a nearby Indian community also follow us, their colorful red ponchos and their lively cheerfulness, adding a feisty atmosphere to our hike. The stark backdrop of the colossal Chimborazo Volcano’s upper flanks, tells us how impressively close we are to the snowline and the edge of some of its millenary glaciers.

As we approach the snowline, the summit starts looking ever farther, making us realize that the Andean giant towers well over the 21.000 feet of elevation above sea level.  Nonetheless, the views of the hectares of snow, (and a bit of the altitude), simply leaves us momentarily breathless.  After touching the icy surface of the first glacier edges we reach, an exciting experience by itself, we start our walk back to the camp.  I am tempted to run, feeling invigorated by the moment of exciting communion with Mother Nature, but I am warned not to run, as the altitude may take a toll on me.

Back at the “Star of Chimborazo” Mountain Lodge and Camp, bottled water, a typical “canelazo” hot beverage and a traditional platter of corn-on-the-cob, served with fresh cheese; green beans and mashed potatoes, serve as a late morning snack, before we continue our journey with Marco, Jimena and Willy at the wheel, around the great Chimborazo Volcano. We are now back on the mostly solitary paved road, watching towards the south the impressive silhouette of the Altar Volcano and catching momentary glimpses of the southernmost of Ecuador’s huge volcanoes: the legendary Sangay, its perfect cone-shaped summit, covered by perpetual snows and showing a plume of smoke above its crater, constantly in mild activity.

Now we are at the western side of Chimborazo, getting rare views of the fantastic mountain from little explored angles.  From this side, the slopes look steeper but we get the impression of being closer to that monumental summit (or rather three sequenced summits), covered by acres of snow and ice, a stunning view altogether.  Along the ashy lava fields on this uninhabited side of the volcano, we can see building’ sized boulders, as impressive testimonies of centuries bygone, when the volcanic giant spewed fire and incandescent rocks at great distances… As we progress along the western rim of Chimborazo, we can occasionally see in the distance the thick subtropical forests leading to the Pacific coast of Ecuador.

Now we merge with another important branch of the Pan-America Highway for an additional 40 minutes ride along the northern flanks of Chimborazo.  We make a couple of roadside stops to look close-by some of those gigantic lava boulders scattered over the ash fields.  A river-shaped glacier almost reaches the road providing yet one more reason for thrill and yet one more spectacular sight.  From the northern slopes, inversely, the mountain’s summit not only appears, but actually is, farther in distance, still giving us post-card views of the magnificent volcano. Marco complements the fabulous views with stories of the historic visitors who were lured and greatly impressed by the majesty of the Chimborazo Volcano: Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of South America, who wrote about his experience on this mountain as a “delirium”; the famous 19th century German scientist, geographer and explorer, Alexander von Humboldt and the equally 19th century famed mountain climber, Edward Whymper, whose name christens one of the volcano’s three consecutive summits.

We have reached Ambato, a commercial hub and Ecuador’s city of the Flowers and Fruits, a garden city, where, before parting in different directions, Marco and Jimena; me and Willy, we enjoy, at the main Marketplace, the city’s culinary specialty: delicious “llapingachos”, golden toasted potato patties filled with cheese, served with peanut sauce, crunchy-roasted sausages, avocados and lettuce salad.  The thirst quencher is an equally local recipe of mixed pear, peach and capuli (a local type of black berry) juice with chunks of the actual fruits.  Hence, with one more delicious Ecuadorian luncheon, this road adventure terminates as we head back to Quito.

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