Last week we went on a trip up into the Andes. Our goal was to see some mountains and we succeeded! We decided on Chimborazo as it is the highest mountain in Ecuador and the point the furthest from the center of the earth (near the equator and the earth bulges at the middle). Here are some pics and descriptions of our adventure.
Driving in Ecuador has it's challenges and benefits. Few roads are marked and it is easy to get lost. But, there are lots to cool small towns and treats along the way. When describing our plans to my english student Geovanny, he suggested we stop in Salcedo for ice-cream. Apparently it is famous in Ecuador and the place must have the most ice-cream shops per capita of any place in the world! We stopped at one of the first. Notice the list of flavors! The kids declared this their favorite town in Ecuador.
They also had a farmer's market and Lisa took a break from riding in the back of the truck to check it out. These fruit are like lychees but fresh (as opposed to the canned lychees we get in the US) and were quite delicious.
Lots of fruit.
Here is another mystery fruit. Apparently these ripen after mango season so mark a seasonal shift in fruit diet for Ecuadorians.
Here is a highlight of the trip! We were near Banos when Lisa noticed this weird grey cloud on the horizon. It is Volcan Tunguahua erupting! It has been very active recently and we got to see this puff of ash come out of it. Amazing!
The ash cloud rose in the sky and was prominent for miles around. The actual volcano is hidden in the clouds.
And here is our first view of Chimborazo! It is over 6000m high!
And here is where we stayed. It is a lodge owned and operated by Marco Cruz, one of Ecuador's great mountain climbers. We were lucky enough to get to meet him. His lodge is fantastic!
Here is the main lodge which is also the restaurant. It is situated in this little valley looking up at the mountain. The lodge is at 4000m, so breathing and such ain't easy!
Amalia immediately made friends with Whimper (named after the climber) and the two were insuperable for the rest of our stay.
There is a herd of llama and alpaca on the land and Whimper thinks they are fun to chase.
Camilo immediately started gathering grass to build things.
Here is the cabin we stayed in. There are two double rooms downstairs and two upstairs. We stayed downstairs. Gets cold at night but we had space heaters in the room.
This was the other dog belonging to the lodge… can't remember her name but needless to say she was good friends with Amalia too.
Camilo liked Whimper too.
There is a little cross joined by tibetan prayer flags high in the hill next to the lodge. Amalia and I decided to hike up to it on a whim. Marco saw us and was impressed. We guessed Amalia might be the youngest kid ever to make the climb!
There is a large population of vicunas living on the mountain. Amazing animals living at high elevation with very little apparent food to eat… but they do fine.
We drove up into the reserve to see how high we could go. And too a family photo.
4800m! That is nearly 16,000ft!
Not much up here by this beautiful flowering plant is everywhere. It is a favorite of the Chimborazo Hillstar. A beautiful hummingbird (no pics, sorry) that lives in this amazing environment.
Lucky for us we have our Toyota LandCruiser to get us around… or as Camilo refers to it, our 'Monster Truck'!
More vicunas, including a baby.
The road cuts show the amazing geology of the mountain. I am guessing what we are seeing here is the evidence from millennia of eruptions of the Chimborazo and all the surrounding volcanoes.
One day we went to Aluasi to ride the train to the Nariz del Diablo. This was a special trip for Camilo as he is in love with Mighty Machines, and trains are certainly mighty! Here are the tracks through town.
Camilo is so excited he can't stand still, not even for a pic.
Camilo wanted a window seat. But we had to warn him not to hang out the window.
We could peak out to see what was ahead.
The train for this trip is made to feel like an old classic train but it is modern and nice. The trip takes a few hours in total and the kids loved it.
Lots of cliffs. You can see here how the tracks double back on themselves to make the steep grade. Apparently 2500 workers died making these tracks!
Here is a view up the Nariz del Diablo from the bottom.
Camilo watching the world go by.
Amalia liked it too but wouldn't admit it.
And then back to the lodge.
Here is a commemorative to Marco Cruz whose lodge we stayed out.
Llamas and alpacas.
View inside the restaurant. Great place to visit!
Amalia and her dog friends!
The last morning we were there it cleared up and Lisa took dozens (maybe hundreds!) of pics of the mountain.
View up the valley from the lodge.
From the other side of the mountain and we drove around to make our way back.
Amalia and the mountain.
Camilo and the mountain.
Kids and the mountain!
And of course we had to stop in Salcedo on the way back for more ice-cream! They even have a sculpture of a Salcedo ice-cream on the way into town. This is the world's center of ice-cream!