Today we boarded another train and ventured up to the Andes. We started at 9300 feet above sea level, went up and down a bit and ended up at 11,800. We can definitely feel it.
This is luxurious travelling indeed. This lunch and our car. 16 of us total so lots of space to spread out.
The food here has been incredible. We didn’t really expect that, but are taking full advantage. We start early each day but we are being treated well.
It’s not without a little excitement though. Minor derailments are relatively common.
We travelled down the “Avenue of Volcanoes” and saw (or partially saw) several of them until the clouds rolled in. Very beautiful.
We passed Yambo Lake which is glacial-fed (chilly for swimming!)
We stopped for a hike at 11,000 feet above sea level. Easy path but we sure felt the altitude.
Apparently hugging this old tree removes your bad spirits and renews your good ones. So we are now officially Tree Huggers.
In the city of Ambaco, there is a 6 day celebration in January where thousands of townsfolk parade around in devil masks. The tradition started in the 1700’s when people were allowed by the church only one day off work per year. Some started making fun of the symbols of the Catholic Church and pretended to be devils. Apparently the tradition became popular, because the town continues it every year.
After taking a Fire Water shot (cane alcohol and “spices”)
We got volunteered to help with the dancing. So we costumed up. The alcohol and altitude may have had something to do with it.
Our last stop of the day was Urbina at 11,840′. It was chilly but it’s amazing to be so high. We met Baltazar Ushca, the last ice harvester on the Chimborazo volcanic slopes.
He is 72 and still goes out twice a week to haul ice back from the glacier. Rather humbling to compare lives! We got to enjoy ice cream made from the ice. Tasty.
Ice is hauled inside the straw above. 55 pound blocks, 2 per donkey. HAND hewn from the glacier. Four hour hike in, 2 hours to mine the ice and four hours back. The ice is 800 meters higher now than when he started at age 15. Proof of climate change.
We then finally made it to our Hacienda. WOW. Incredible place, this is our room and bathroom. All original antique furniture.
After an amazing dinner of meat served on a hot volcanic rock that cooked our food right in front of us, it is again time for bed.
Due to quadruple the normal amount of rain in Ecuador lately, there have been multiple landslides here. Our itinerary has been altered a bit, as the road and rail lines are both inaccessible. So we are up at the crack of dawn (actually earlier than that) to have another exciting day.