An Adventurous Week in Ecuador – Riobamba

10 May 2014 – 17 May 2014

The Adventure Week AKA Ruta de los Volcanes

The Leap promised its Leapers an “a week of adventure and expedition, taking the famous “Ruta de los Volcanes” (Volcanic Route), biking to waterfalls, white-water raft, climb Chimborazo volcano and kayak over Quilotoa crater lake”, but it was much more than that, exceeding all of our expectations. It was a crazy week, finally getting EVERYONE out of their comfort zone, with loads of unforgettable memories, and loads of work for me as a leader! Here follows a great story, enjoy the ride! (Part 3)

Adventure Week Chimborazo Cycling

RIOBAMBA

In the afternoon we left Baños for Riobamba, where I had to go to the hospital with some of my group straight after lunch. I ended up spending the whole afternoon in the emergency room and got back to the hostel to meet my other Leapers to have diner again. So I didn’t do anything special regarding sightseeing in the city, but it didn’t matter because I had been there before in March already.

Now, Riobamba means ‘river’ and ‘valley’ in Spanish and Kichwa, reffering to the topography of the area. On Saturdays there is a great indigenous market, but we were there during week days, and had other (read: more adventurous) plans!

Thanks to Riobamba’s proximity to the Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest peak, there are a lot of options to do excursions. We left on the next morning to do a one-day mountain-biking trip, where we did a downhill descent from the refuge of Chimborazo!

Adventure Week chimborazo

Road from Riobamba to Chimborazo

The CHIMBORAZO DOWNHILL day tour was awesome! We got to enjoy the beauty of Ecuador’s highest mountain in an active way and hiked from the first refuge to the second, reaching an altitude of 5000m. Well, to be honest, I did not make the second refuge due to altitude sickness. I had a terrible headache as if my brains were going to explode and my heart beat was so fast that I thought I would die. I did not feel sick at all, but I was worried enough to decide to go back to 4800m (first refuge). There I enjoyed a Coca Tea, which has medicinal effects for altitude sickness. And did I already mention it was freeeeezing cooooollddd up there!

Adventure Week Refuge 4800m

Drinking Coca Tea at 4800m

The distance between the Carrel refuge (4800m) and the Whymper refuge (5000m) was only 1 kilometer, but because of the thin air at this altitude, everyone had to walk slowly and it took almost an hour before they were back to have a hot coca-tea.

We prepared ourselves and our mountain bikes for descending from 4800m to the lower hut, where we had no visibility at all. That first part of 8 km on a dirt road was crazy! I decided to take it slowly and easy because it was very hard to control your bike having that much speech without being to see 5 m in front of you, passing to a lot of corners and bumps in the road. It was super cold and I passed some people who went to fast and crashed!

Adventure Week Downhill Ride

Start of the downhill ride from 4800m

After that first part on the dirt road, we checked our bikes and continued descending from 4800m to 2900 m altitude, over a distance of 37 km on an asphalted road. It definetely sounds harder then it was, because downhill means no need to put loads of effort in your biking as your bike takes you.

Adventure Week mountain bike

Me descending the Chimborazo

I had the feeling I was flying over the landscape, fast as I went. At certain moments I went so fast that I passed cars and it felt like 75 km/hour (which isn’t of course). After +/- 2 hours we arrived at San Juan village, where we met the staff at the church. It was pretty cool, because we were followed by the guides and supported by vehicles all the time. Like real cyclers, felt like ‘Tour de France’ but in Ecuador. 😛

Anyway, here’s a movie of our CHIMBORAZO DOWNHILL adventure, made by our travel agency guides:

The next day it was time to head back to Quito, spend some nights there and go to the next and last community to do some more volunteering in the Andes.

But that last weekend in Quito turned out to be at least as adventurous as the Adventure Week itself, because while we went out for someones Birthday dinner and a cocktail in the Irish Pub in the Mariscal, we got followed by strange people that tried to be “our friends”, but turned out to have other plans as they didn’t stop following us. I had to stop the police to make the situation come to an end, but the police did not do anything, and before we were able to ran away from them, they got us again and started to beat me up because I stopped the police for them… Horrible story and had to run for my life to a taxi while they were hitting on the car!

Later turned out that a friend of mine was robbed that very same night in the same area, by the same people. Guess we were lucky, and Thank God the hostal had some ice to put on my beaten up face… I have a good guardian angel ! ❤

Adventure Week Alpaca

Vicuñas (look-a-like llamas) in the Chimborazo Reserve

From Julie with Love

xxx

An Adventurous Week in Ecuador – Quilotoa

10 May 2014 – 17 May 2014

The Adventure Week AKA Ruta de los Volcanes

The Leap promised its Leapers an “a week of adventure and expedition, taking the famous “Ruta de los Volcanes” (Volcanic Route), biking to waterfalls, white-water raft, climb Chimborazo volcano and kayak over Quilotoa crater lake”, but it was much more than that, exceeding all of our expectations. It was a crazy week, finally getting EVERYONE out of their comfort zone, with loads of unforgettable memories, and loads of work for me as a leader! Here follows a great story, enjoy the ride!

Adventure Week Quilotoa The Leap Group

LAGUNA DE QUILOTOA

After having breakfast in Quito and giving my group an orientation about this week, we left by private bus to Quilotoa. It was a horrible temparature shock going straight from the warm Galapagos Islands to the cold Laguna de Quilotoa. I felt quite calm, although I knew I could expect a crazy week when it came to organizing, leading, transporting, arranging meals and making many many invoices in hotels, travel agencies and restaurants. But I was more ready then ever before and started to feel more and more comfortable with my job and the group.

The Quilotoa Loop is a bumpy, ring-shaped road that travels from the Panamericana far into the backcountry of Cotopaxi province. Along the way tourists encounter colorful indigenous markets, a crystal-blue lake that the locals believe has no bottom (!!!), and ancient trails that meander in the shadow of snowcapped volcanoes. The isolated location brought us in contact with Kichwa-speaking indigenous people and some lamas.

Adventure Week Quilotoa

After paying a 2$ entrance fee to Quilotoa, it was not hard to find our hostel as there were only a handful in town. We had a typical lunch, warmed up near the fire place where we met other travellers and watched how the clouds got ticker and ticker, until we could not see the end of the road anymore and finally watched how it started to rain. We felt quite stuck in the building, went to our room and collected wood for the fires at night. It got colder and colder, so freezing I had never felt before!

I went souvenir shopping in my raincoat with the girls as real fashionistas, we bought some drinks and food to keep us warm and strong, and spend the night making fire and more fire until we finally had de-frozen our fingers and toes, played “never have I ever” (my all-time favourite game!) and finally got to sleep. Some alone, some together… To keep each other “warm”?!

Well yeah, it was a lovely evening even though I was really disappointed in the fact that we did not managed to hike down the lake because of the weather. We agreed on having breakfast at 6h30 in order to leave for the hike early in the morning at 7h30 because usually it does not rain in the mornings.

And oh yeah, I woke up and the sky was bright blue and clear. We were very lucky and because there were no clouds, the reflection of the sun showed all kinds of colours of blue and green. We enjoyed the lookout on the top where we had stunning views of the mirror-green lake about 400m below and the snowcapped peaks of the Cotopaxi volcano in the distance.

Adventure Week Quilotoa

When you ask the locals how deep it is, they always say it has no bottom at all, they said in the Lonely Planet. So I did the test and asked some locals. Some could not even reply to my Spanish, because they only spoke Kichwa, and does who did speak Spanish confirmed: no bottom. Well, geologists say 250m…

After an hour going down, we rented kayaks to see more of the lakes surroundings. The alkaline lake water is not potable, and I assume it is too cold for swimming, even though it was clearly warmer near the lake then in the village during the day.

Adventure Week Quilotoa

With an altitude of 3914m, it is really hard to hike around the volcanic-crater lake of Laguna Quilotoa. You have no air in your longs, and it literally feels as if you had just smoked a package of cigarettes in 5 minutes. Impossible to walk back up, was what I said after giving it a try for 30 meters. I stopped a local, and continued by horse (or was it a donkey?!)

Adventure Week Quilotoa

I felt really sorry for my ‘animal’ which did not only suffer itself from the hike up carrying my weight, but apart from that he had some serious diarrhea and stopped every once in a while, refusing to walk further. Pobrecito,  I will never do that again but I have to admit it was way easier and enjoyable to get up like this.

Some of my group members took the challenge and hiked all the way up, arriving sweaty and tired, while I was already chilling up there for half an hour. Because of that, we were a little bit late for our private transfer to Baños, but it was definetely worth the delay and we had been so lucky with the weather after all.

If you ever plan on going to Ecuador, make sure you do not skip Quilotoa. Truly recommendable and one of the most beautiful places in the whole country, in my opinion.

Adventure Week quilotoa

Then it was time to head further to Baños, another 4 hours by bus away. Everybody slept as a baby during the transfer, preparing for “the thrill town” of Ecuador!! And every now and then I opened my eyes to enjoy the amazing views along the road. The Andes is fascinating!

Adventure Week the andes road

NEXT POST / STOP: BAÑOS

Hasta pronto,

Julie