Following excellent advice from the hotel late the previous evening, a splinter group of six intrepid travellers set off very early (0625) to scale the heights of Chimborazo whose summit is the furthest point on the earth’s surface from the centre of the earth. Its height is 6,310m but the earth is not a perfect sphere and bulges near the equator. The Patchett Pagoda, the Peel Porsche and the Morrison Aston drove along a good tarmac road until they reached the park gates at 4,369m. There then followed 8km of dirt road with a lot of ‘washboard’ which the Aston did not enjoy but all three cars arrived safely at the shelter at 4,863m – higher than Mont Blanc, I believe. Photos and hot chocolate followed but, unfortunately, none of us could find the crampons so we were unable to climb to the summit. The experience was fantastic, the views above the cloud were unforgettable and viewing Vicunas was the icing on the cake.
We find that Ecuadoreans are largely very polite on the road and the roads chosen in Ecuador have not been as busy as those in Colombia. The only real problems of quality of road surface today were the rural roads on the way in and out of Ingapirca of which more anon.
The next town of note on the route was Alausi whence the Chiva Express, now a train for tourists, has to descend a zig zag at a 45 degree gradient over a rock called La Nariz de Diablo (the Devil’s Nose). The station was pretty but there was no train and it was difficult to see the actual zig zag: A reason for another visit?
A two hour stop was scheduled for Ingapirca (or Ingapurca) and it certainly merited the time. The site is stunning and the guides explained that it was chosen by the Canari people in the 15th century because of the surrounding high points for defence, its mild climate at altitude and its solar alignment allowing a temple to be built where both the summer and winter solstices could be celebrated... although, of course they are not summer and winter as the site is so near the Equator. There is also a temple to the moon. Ingapirca was taken over by the Incas when they arrived and elements of both cultures remain.
We have been split between two hotels as one is not yet finished and the replacement leaves a bit to be desired but Rick is working on it...... the bill that is, not the cleaning.
We ate at an Austrian restaurant where we were assured by the hotel that there would be Jazz music – but we found that that was only only on Saturdays. The food was good enough and the company excellent with the Patchetts, Paul the mechanic and Doctor Sophie.