Adventures in Ecuador

Letter 1 (part I) - Volcanoes Hopping in Ecuador.

Hello everybody,

How are you? Nir and I landed in Quito Ecuador about a month ago… We planned to go for a two months vacation in Ecuador and in Peru. For us it's like a deja-vu trip since we were in those countries some five years ago. We really expected this trip and were thinking of how it will be to come back again to these places…

Well, Ecuador is a very diverse country. You can find there interesting cultures and people, mountains, beaches, jungles and of course, the magnificent Galapagos islands (which we visited in our first visit). For us Ecuador is mostly the land of fire and volcanoes. There are many magnificent volcanoes there, and as we are so much hooked on volcanoes (one of our dreams is to see an on-line eruption…) we decided to explore many of them.

We started not far from the border between Ecuador and Colombia where we walked in a high grassy area (above 4000 m), which is called Pinyan lakes, and climbed there our fist mountain called Yanaurco (4650 m). Normally this altitude is not that much of a problem, but since it was our first climb with all the equipment on our back, it was supposed to be a tough climb. From the point where we slept in the last night, it was supposed to take us about 5 hours to the top. As the weather in Ecuador is clear in the early morning and cloudy later we started our walk early in the morning. Lucky us the weather was crystal clear (something that didn't happen quite often in Ecuador). We reached the top and the views were great. We could see all the cone-shape volcanoes from the Colombian border in the north till the very far south… We thought later that this was definitely beginners luck, because later on the weather was much less nice to us, if we say it in a mild way…

We walked in a high grassy area.

After Yanaurco we went to relax in the hot springs of Chachimbiro. Ecuador in general is full of hot springs due to its volcanic nature. We slept in a hut just next to the hot water and could bath till late at night (very romantic…) and from very early in the morning. It became later our habit to finish almost every trek in one of those hot springs.

Tali in the hot pool.

Our next mountain climb was Imbabura (4780m, not far from Otavalu – for the ones that are familiar with this region). The weather in this climb was terrible. Strong winds and some rain accompanied us. We still made our way till the summit, the last part was on bare rocks, and was very steep, It was frightening in some places and I was thinking of turning back but eventually we reached the top. On that time we met in Ibarra the city, which lies next to this mountain, two different local people who started to talk with us in Hebrew. It turned out to be that they were both visiting Israel (from their own will…) for long periods even though they are not Jews. So it was nice experience meeting them, and one of them even invited us to her home.

As I said, we started in the very north of Ecuador and made our way down south. Our next stop was the village of Cayambe, which is located under the third highest peak in Ecuador – volcan Cayambe (5780 m). Cayambe is a center of milk production and it was nice finding all kinds of cheeses, ice creams and yogurts around. And of course we planned to climb this volcan Cayambe – the climb is technical and is supposed to be much more difficult than the higher and more famous mountains of Ecuador (Cotapaxi and Chimborazo). We arranged to go with some guide who was supposed to lead a group of 10 Ecuadorians to the top. For better acclimatization (since the mountain is very high) we thought of going by ourselves to the refuge (4750 m). We heard that there is a cows farm on the very high edge of the mountain and that there is a milk truck that goes up there every day to gather the milk. We wanted to take this truck till the altitude of about 3500m and make our way from there. That is what we did.

It was nice finding all kinds of ice creams.

We left our hotel around 5:30 in the morning, went on the back of that truck and started our journey. The way up was so cold and windy and we almost got frozen. Eventually we arrived to the farm and started to take our way up to the refuge. The winds were very strong. The strongest that we have ever encountered. It almost moved us from our way and we could hardly make our next steps. Eventually we reached the refuge, and were supposed to meet our climbing group there (they were supposed to come in the late afternoon). The refuge was located in a nice point, from where you could see the summit. We went to sleep and were supposed to start our walk towards the summit around midnight – we hoped so much that the strong winds will calm down so that we would have a chance of climbing up (we even prepared all the technical equipment), but it didn't happen. The weather was awful so we had to give up this summit and go back down to Cayambe village. We felt very disappointed.

The winds over volcan Cayambe (5780 m) were very strong.

As a compensation for us (not really…) there was a big fiesta (party) in the village in the next day. They have every year a celebration which is called "the Ice man" where people climb up the mountain till they reach the Ice zone, take as big as possible an ice block, tie it to themselves and run with it about 28 KM until the village of Cayambe. The winner is the one who brings the biggest amount of ice to the village in the shortest time. Some of the people were really carrying huge amount of ice and it was incredible.

The winner is the one who brings the biggest amount of ice to the village in the shortest time.

Our next destination was the village of Machachi which is nicely located between some of the most beautiful mountains of Ecuador – Cotapaxi and Illinizas. We first went to climb Ilinizas – these are two twin cone-shape volcanoes. After the disappointment that we had on Cayambe we were really hoping to be more successful this time. In the first day of the climb the weather was completely misty - you couldn't see anything far than 10 meters. And there was some rain from time to time. We became really frustrated (as you may remember – since our first walk we had the three following walks with bad weather). We met people on the way up, who told us that due to the bad weather and the big amount of snow it was impossible to reach the top. We said to ourselves that we would start to walk and see where we get. We climbed up till the hut, which is located at an altitude of about 4700 m.

there was a big fiesta (party) in Cyambe village.

In the next morning we woke up and to our surprise the weather was just perfect. We started to make our way to the top (5125 m). The way was very very steep and with the new snow and ice it became very frightening and dangerous to climb. Thanks to our luck there was a professional guide who was following us in this climb, so we joined his group and this helped us in making our VERY VERY frightening way up to the summit. The views from the summit were awesome. The visibility was great and we could see all the high mountains of Ecuador, form the very north to the south. Some of them are really huge and were in almost touching distance from us. We went down the mountain happily, and went back to Machachi village.

The visibility was great and we could see Cotapaxi volcano 5,890 m'.

The south summit of the Ilinizas 5,248 m'.

We climbed the north summit of the Ilinizas at 5,125 m'.

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Last modified: Sun Aug 17th 15:05:00 IST 2003