Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ecuador III: Trip Journal Part Two

We spent the morning on the flanks of Tungurahua, looking at pyroclastic flows and doing a little bit of volcanic stratigraphy. 
After lunch, we drove into Banos to get outfitted for an afternoon of "canyoning" -- rappelling down waterfalls. I'm not quite sure why they call it "canyoning," because it's not what this particular southwest kid would associate with canyoneering, but whatever. We got wetsuits, helmets, splash jackets, water shoes, strange harnesses with thick layers of vinyl basically covering your ass, and figure-8 devices, then loaded onto the bus and drove along a narrow, winding highway for a while.
After changing into our gear, we hiked up a steep, muddy trail to the top of a sequence of 5 waterfalls. Canyoning was fun -- I took the first waterfall a bit slow but got more daring with the subsequent three, jumping out and riding the soaked rope into the cold pools below. The last waterfall was more of a slide than a waterfall, still fun though.

Breakfast at 07:00, on the bus at 08:00. We drove up to a village on the west side of Tungurahua, on the other side of the valley from the volcano itself. We exchanged our luxurious tour bus for rickety mountain bikes, which we then pedaled up a cobblestone and dirt road to an even smaller village, where we were immediately mobbed by schoolchildren (probably ranging from 4 to 10 years old). We let them borrow our bikes, which they repeatedly rode up and down the stone road through the center of the village. They had a couple soccer balls as well, which we kicked around with them in front of la escuela
After playing with the kids, we continued up the road to an overlook poing where we looked down on the valley of Rio Chambo and the town of Bilbao, which was left devastated by the 2006 eruption.
Ate lunch back in the larger village -- atun y aguacate y salsa aji, y un plantano con mantequilla de mani para postres. It's what I've been eating most days, and while peanuts/peanut butter aren't technically paleo, it's a good way to get enough fat and an acceptable treat. Buying food at grocery stores has made it remarkably easy to stay mostly paleo on this trip.

I'm not a huge fan of (downhill) mountain biking, and frankly, I'm glad that we're done with that. Today was mostly uneventful. I took a few pictures of the hotel grounds, decoratively adorned with blossoming flowers in various shades of pink, orange and red, before we continued on our way. We spent the morning in Banos, and hiked up 600-something cement steps to the statue of some sanctified virgin. A good prep/warm-up hike.
In the afternoon, we drove to Cotopaxi National Park. At the park entrance, the people told us we needed a guide to enter the park (not a mountain guide, just a "guide.") We waited around for half an hour or so while Jose, our bus driver, made a call and arranged for someone to meet us at the entrance. We paid him like $30 or something to ride into the park with us, and then go on his way. That's South America for you...

We stayed at Tambopaxi last night; we'll be there tonight as well. We looked at some lahar deposits and some ignimbrites in the morning, then spent the afternoon wandering around the barren landscape mapping pyroclastic flows and deposits from the 1877 eruption. Most of the area is between 12k and 13k feet; I felt pretty good hiking around here.
I managed to stay pretty darn paleo for most of the trip so far, with the exception of a couple of ice cream cones (in Quito, then in Banos). Ecuadorians don't eat a lot of bread; most of their starch comes in the form of potatoes, which I find acceptable. They eat plenty of meat and fish, and at this latitude, there's certainly no lack of fresh fruit.

The rest of the journal will be continued in another post solely devoted to chronicling my successful summit of Cotopaxi, since that's way, way, way more than I want to type here.
To be continued.........

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