Archive for the ‘The Andes’ Category
After three years of absence Ecuadors famous Nariz del Diablo train has finally returned to Riobamba!
Here you can check out the routes as well as the Train Timetable and Prices
It has taken years and billions of dollars to renovate the old train tracks designed at the turn of the 19th century for steam engines.
Unfortunately being able to ride on the roof of the train, one of the biggest drawcards for tourists, is no longer possible with the new modern carriages. The reason may be due to why the Nariz del Diablo train closed down in the first place: the deaths of two Japanese tourists whose heads were accidentally severed when some thoughtless dumbass installed a cable over the train tracks.
The interesting thing about the inauguration was that the governor of Chimborazo Province gave the speech instead of the mayor of Riobamba, Juan Salazar, who is widely perceived as corrupt. This sparked a rumour that Juan Salazar is “quemado” or “burnt” and other politicians now consider it to be a liability to associate with him as well as the belief he may be removed from power soon.
This is fantastic news for the people of Riobamba who believe the mayor has plundered the city for too long, and it gives kudos to the innovative social media campaign against him called Caos en Riobamba Sr. Salazar.
Think cockroaches are creepy and disgusting creatures?
Well check out this extremely rare bioluminescent race of cockroaches that look like they come from one of the reactors of Chernobyl. Dubbed the Lucihormetica luckae, the only known specimen of the species was collected in 1939 in the Andean Forest surrounding the Tungarahua Volcano, which was unfortunately damaged during a volcanic eruption in December 2010. Another is unlikely to be found.
What other rare and amazing plants and animals are yet to be discovered in Ecuadors lush and prehistoric ecosystems?
Want to try your luck to find another one of these insanely cool looking critters? Here are some directions and photos for an independent day hike to the Tungarahua Volcano.
If you want to see what its like to spend time with Ecuador Eco Volunteer then check out this video by one of our repeat volunteers. Finn from England who volunteered in the Animal Rescue Center last year has come back again this year with two friends and his video offers a real funny inside look about travel in Ecuador.
In the video you will have seen snaps of all the wildlife (including an Anaconda!) they saw on their Yasuni Amazon Tour as well as their time ziplining while volunteering in Mindo along with other shots from the Galapagos Islands and Ecuadors pyramid above the sky.
Ecuador is one of the biggest exporters of the Cocao bean to make Coco and Chocolate in the world. The plant which comes from South America was even used as a common currency throughout this region before the Spanish invasion.
What might surprise you when you get to Ecuador is why its so hard to find good chocolate in a country that produces 130,000 tonnes of Cocao a year. Its because all the Cocao is for export and monstrous corporations like Nestle control the local market.
But chocolate lovers dont despair just yet, there is an oasis in the desert.
Salinas de Guaranda
Salinas de Guaranda is a famous little town in the Ecuadorian Andes that is about two and an half hours by bus from Riobamba. What makes the town so popular amongst both Ecuadorian and foreign tourists alike is its cheese and chocolate factories as well as the great variety in hand-knitted llama and alapca wool clothing.
A Swiss man called Father Antonio Polo used his knowledge in how to produce Swiss Chocolate and Cheese to set up a cooperative run by the people of Salinas that has literary pulled the entire community out of poverty.
The delicious swiss Chocolate they make in Salinas melts in your mouth and include the famous Blue Bird “Pajaro Azul” Chocolate named after the local moonshine alcohol and my favorite hot chocolate laced with chile powder.
Now with regards to the Cheese if you have been in Ecuador and South America for a while you will know that the omnipresent fresh, white, and tasteless stuff they have over here leaves a lot to be desired compared to our aged cheeses back home.
But the cheese in Salinas de Guaranda is every bit as good as the chocolate – so good that they are both sold on the international market along with all of the handwoven alpaca wool clothing.
How To Get There
The Conventional Way:
From Riobamba take the “Arenal Guaranda” bus that leaves in the morning from the main bus terminal. (The G in Guaranda sounds more like a W) It will cost about $2.50
Ecuador is one of the best countries in the Andes mountain range if you like trekking and hiking. Many of the best treks in Ecuador require guides, donkeys and private transport but there are some great day hikes and independent treks you can do on your own
A great day trek for experienced and inexperienced trekkers alike is one to the cave, waterfalls, and abandoned hotsprings around the active Volcano Tungurahua . Here are the directions to get there with photos below:
- From the “Terminal Orient” in Riobamba catch the bus to Palitachwa (pronounced Palitawa)
- Get off at Palitachwa and follow the road down past the village and continue past the houses destroyed by the Volcano Tungurahua on the edge of a cliff above the River Patso
- The road will continue for about 45 minutes past farmland as you get closer and closer to Volcano Tungurahua until you reach a bridge. Cross the bridge and you will go past a cement gate over the road and then you will see a basketball court and the abandoned hotsprings facilities which you can enter and explore.
- From here there are two routes that you can take one to the beautiful view of several stunning waterfalls and the other to a cave inside the Volcano Tungurahua.
- The path to both these routes starts above the abandoned hot-springs, you will see a dirt track that goes to the left and the right but for both routes you want to go to the left and climb as the path to the right only leads to the river.
- Once you take the path to the right which climbs up the hill it will split in two again; to go to the waterfalls head to the right away from Tungurahua which follows the river and to see the cave head to the left..
- The right path to the waterfalls will climb for about two hours with multiple switchbacks and past a few remote indigenous farm-houses and plantations of Eucalyptus trees (the locals are super friendly so dont forget to say “hola!”) soon the path will curve North to the left which is where you will see many beautiful and very large waterfalls.
- The left path to the cave weaves and turns on the side of the mountain. Some parts of the trail were destroyed the last time the volcano erupted so you will need to do some path finding but there are old signs that point to another hotsprings higher up that have been destroyed.
- Once you get the hotsprings that have been destroyed, you will know because of the mangled cement and rocks, keep heading further up the source of the river and climb over the rocks. Then you will be inside the Corazon de Tungurahua (The Heart of Tungurahua) the giant cave with a beautiful waterfall above it.
I dont need to say that if the volcano is spewing lava this day trek is not the best idea. Ask the locals about the safety of the volcano, if its merely “fumando / smoking” the worst thing that will happen is a bit of ash will be in your lungs but when the volcano is very active this day trek can be dangerous.
Now youve had a taste of trekking in Ecuador and want to get off the beaten track then check out Ecuadors Best Treks
You wont regret it.