Salinas de Guaranda in the fog.
Ok so, the boys and I leave Quito for a second time, Saturday 19th of May, set course for Chimborazo, but past Ambato all is rain and only on one short occasion we can make out the snow fields on the volcano's slopes. We get to Salinas de Guaranda on 3,600m, and the boys are hungry, clouds hang deep and the humidity gives it a creepy cold feel. It doesn't prevent the Andino enthusiasts from playing an exiting volleyball and football match on the main plaza, some with no shirt on, - and Chelsea in the meantime wins the Champion's League final elsewhere.
Night is cold and we wake with a flat battery, and I don't know how to run an automatic down the slope in order to jump start it. But a guy who can charge it is found quickly and we spend another 3 hours in the Andean town that is famous for its cheese production. Llamas and donkeys are parked round town, milk is being delivered, also horses and sheep roam, it is a paradise for my boys.
Not aware of what's on in Salinas we leave, for Chimborazo again, but beyond 4,200m thick fog engulfs again; this venture doesn't make much sense. It was on our way up, that a traditionally dressed rider in poncho and llama fur pants rode down and he was not the first we saw, and I stopped in advance to take his photo, asked permission and we started a little conversation and he pointed out that he's riding to the fiesta grande, - in Salinas.
Fiesta Grande of Bulls and Horses, Salinas de Guaranda.
So we arrive back in Salinas and there is nothing on, and I buy some cheese tortillas to feed the boys and ask and it is 2kms away, and we take a few town's folk who are headed for the fiesta too, everybody's going, and on the way, escaping a drunk rider who comes towards us in full cantor, I put the right wheels of the van in the ditch near the road and only after reversing back and forward in the wet and spinning the wheels many times and get the mud flying I drive him out again and we arrive on what is a football field turned into mud.
With a Fanta I send my five year olds on their way, and I find them soon standing on the railing watching the show like old cowboys, I also get myself a large beer, one of many to come. This is a get together of indigenas, a peaceful drunk fiesta of riders, bulls and horses, a rodeo in the rain and fog, and the banda atop a construction site sinks our hearts and souls, ever deeper in a moody blues as the lights go out over the ground, and riders, beasts and my boys sink deeper into the mud.
Between the skies and the wet ground this is all about gaming, lassoing, not killing, unlike the last drunk bull-fiesta that my boys and I attended together (in Mexico). The cowboy skills here as there are on the drunken side, it takes not seconds but many minutes to catch el toro.
Yes we stay late, till dark when all the drunks head home in their pick-up trucks and all is stuck because we all go the same way, and when we came 6 hours earlier we all let our cars drop like garbage, and my boys stink of horses and sh!t, are dirty all over and dirty the van and I bring beer in and toss it over, there's a big mess when we wake the next day. But such is a good fiesta.
Back lucky to Chimborazo.
On retrying Chimborazo Monday we drive all the way to the refugio on 4,850m and we cannot even find it first, there is snow and dense fog once more, it is simply too dark and I tell my boys to raise their arms, in order to up their spirits. But then, 15 minutes later while we wait for the tea to boil, sun's out, and the glaciers of Chimborazo surrounded by blue skies, for about 15 minutes, till the next front moves in.
Between the clouds we also find a great many vicuñas, these wild South American camelids which live only high in the Andes.
Baños and Riobamba and south.
Down in the valley we find Riobamba and find it's a mess, trash, potholes and traffic and we escape for Baños and the soothing, yellowish muddy thermal baths which we enjoy while it rains. Back the next day we take the dirt road that was closed due to mudslides, it leads through the mystic valley of Rio Chambo, the volcano next door left is Tungurahua, all is black pebbles and sand, the volcano of course behind clouds.
Riobamba then on the second try presents itself differently, in a different sunlight, and the boys get an ice cream on the plaza de armas and manage to eat it before it starts raining again, and that's basically it. We are headed south longing for warmth, lower altitudes and maybe a beach.
Alausi and Nariz del Diablo and Ingapirca.
But the road along the Ecuadorian Andes is still long, across many valleys and ravines up and down. Suddenly past a night in Alausi the skies are much clearer, and we head down a valley and see the tourist train on the other side enter the fog and what is called Nariz del Diablo while we take our time and a photo. When the veil of clouds moves it is such nice country here.
We find Ingapirca and it gives a first though small impression of what Inca settlements look like, their expansion went all the way up into present Ecuador and southern Colombia, the late or final Inca civil wars between Atahualpa and his bother Huáscar took them all the way up here, already when the Spanish Christian tugs roamed the area really the Inca at the time should have had better to do than fight each other, and really I can't wait to get to Peru.
Cuenca and that was Ecuador.
Picturesque Cuenca is all blue skies and fireworks, Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca has an old cathedral and a new cathedral (the blue domes), we hang for two days in this most charming of the Ecuadorian cities. Wunderbar by the river, which is owned by German Frank (not Austrian, as the lp says), and my rambunctious boys receive the reception that 'I' need and as should be, wifi, safe playground, a garden, no traffic, not much to destroy but enough schnick-schnack to keep them busy like a table football, it is just not so easy all the time, here the personal is just what you want for children.
Loja then is not worth it, and Daniel suffers from big diarrhea, maybe from ice cream in Cuenca, and this diarrhea will bother for many weeks in Peru, which we enter on 26th of May.