Not off the beaten path, but not in Riobamba.
In the morning I was picked up outside my hotel at 8:15,and then we, the guide Alejandro from Pro Bici and James from England, went to a café to pick up some sandwiches before we started the drive to Chimborazo.
At some places along the road Alejandro stopped the car to tell us interesting things to know. We also waited for two other cars with a family who were also going on the tour with Pro Bici and we met them at a canyon where we went out to look at the view and plants.
There is a road going all the way up to the lower refugio, the Carrel Refugio at 4840 metres. The first thing we did after arriving there was to buy hot chocolate ($1) and coffee ($0.50). After that it was time to walk up to the second refugio, the Whymper Refugio at 5040 metres. As the altitude is very high it is good not to walk too fast. Coming back down to the first refuguio we ate our sandwiches and some snacks before it was time to start the 5h long bicycle tour.
Before we left Alejandro gave James a walkie-talkie so that we could be in contact at places where Alejandro could not go with the car. From Refugio Carrel we followed the bumpy dirt road 8km down to the Tourist Centre at the entrance of the reserve. From there we cycled along a quite flat dirt road for a while. For me this was the hardest part because the wind was very, very strong. Besides the wind here the weather was nice during the tour.
Then we cycled along the paved main road for 1km before turning left at a path to go off road for a while. The views of Chimborazo were stunning and we saw several Vicuñas. After another kilometer on the main road we turned right and cycled on a dirt road passing through the community Pulinguí San Pablo, where Casa del Cóndor is situated. We cycled a short distance on the paved main road again and then turned left by the canyon. Now it was going uphill and the altitude was about 3800 metres. Having a cough I felt I needed to take it easy and therefore stopped a few times to catch my breath before continuing on the cycle.
Then it went downhill again and we cycled to an old Inca site where there are some large stones scattered around and where traces of three house grounds can be seen. There is also a spring with mineral rich water here and we filled our water bottles. We stayed here for a while, eating the rest of our sandwiches and snacks, but also to wait for the other group who was on their way down (it would be difficult for the cars to meet).
From the Inca site we went in the car uphill but stopped when it was starting to go downhill again and changed for the bikes again. The dirt road here was quite bumpy with lots of stones. The landscape was beautiful and we passed farmland and a village. I hoped no barking dogs were going to come running after us as that can happen during this part, but luckily they didn’t.
The last part we cycled on the main road again down to the small town San Juan. When we arrived to San Juan it had just become dark and it was around 18:30. We stopped by the church (which had been pointed out to us when we passed in the morning), put the bikes on the car and drove back to Riobamba.
It had been a great tour, it was fun going downhill from Chimborazo, we were lucky with the weather and the landscape was beautiful with stunning views of Chimborazo. Absolutely a tour to recommend.
The price of the tour was $50 (July 2013).
- Hiking and Walking
- Adventure Travel
Guano is a little town about 30 minutes away from Riobamba. If you are in Riobamba for the train ride, Guano is a nice side trip you can do in a morning.
Guano is known for two products - sisel carpets and leather products. You will have to shop around to find quality in both, and know that bargaining hard is expected. You will be charged according to what the vendor believes you can afford!
Right as you enter town there is a leather 'factory' - this place has fairly good quality jackets, bags, purses, briefcases, belts, wallets, etc. I can't speak for any of the other places. As for the carpets, I prefer woven so I only 'window shopped'.
- Budget Travel
We were with the family 3 weeks in Ecuador with the Tour Operador "Travel2South" and during those 3 weeks, we took a trek to El Altar 2 days / 1 night ... and that was really a beautiful experience!
They do great things, with the little details... We starter at 8am, going in a comfortable jeep with our guide Telmo, until the entrance of the Sangay National Park. Then we started the trek, 6 hours until the refuge with the lunch and some drinks in the middle of the way.
Arriving there, it's another world, really beautiful and peaceful nature view. Our guide started to cook, we had a Seco de Pollo (chicken stue) at 4000m. that was unexpected :P ...
The day after, we started by a great breakfast and go upper until the yellow lagoon (el altar crater) for 2hours... and there waaaw, it's beautiful. Coming back, we had another lunch box and finally we came back after 5 hours walking down the valley. They pick us up at the entrance and back to Riobamba.
We did the 2 days option, but there is also the 3 days, el Altar lagoons trek option. I recommend them all perfect, for the trekking, they have a special website for it : http://www.southamericatravel.agency/packages/el-altar-lagoon-trek-ecuador-best-hiking-route-riobamba/
- Hiking and Walking
- Adventure Travel
- National/State Park
Devils Nose Vid
The train departs very early from Riobamba (7.30am from memory) for this famous train journey to Alausi, called La Nariz del Diablo because of one section where the train has to get down a virtually sheer cliff face, which is supposed to resemble a nose.
The cost was $15 and you have the choice of sitting inside the train or on the roof. Some cushions were supplied as the roof of the train is made from corrugated iron and can get uncomfortable at times.
The weather started out pretty cold and wet but as the sun rose the roof of the train got hotter and wind chill factor of -10 started to dissapear.
Try and sit on the rear carriages so you can avoid the concentrated diesel fumes coming from the engine at the front.
The highlight of this adventure was derailing. Yes that's right we were riding on top of a train with sheer 200 foot drops only meters away from the tracks and the train came off the tracks and travelled along the dirt until it came to a screeching halt. It took a lot of time and effort to get the old train back on to the tracks. (2 hours) No one was injured. Get used to it folks, this is South America.
Early morning - enjoy the nature.
A trip by mountainbike is scheduled - so just take a diep breath - enjoy the nature - because a lot of things still have to come.
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An extraordinary trip in the mountains of the Andes.
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