Is it raining ash?

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
Trip End Apr 20, 2013

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Flag of Ecuador  , Chimborazo,
Sunday, December 16, 2012

We set off nice and early knowing that we had a long day ahead of us.  We aimed to make it to the town of Riobamba, which was over 100km away, and we presumed at least some of that would be uphill.  We had breakfast provided to us by the chatty hotel lady, who recounted us with tales of seeing other cyclists with tandems or reclining bikes.  The conversation was partly through her animated Spanish but mainly through her miming out what she was trying to say, which was quite humorous.  As we were leaving, we could hear her telling all of the other guests about our plans with our bikes and our trip, and i'm sure they would rather have enjoyed their breakfasts in peace and woken up slowly too.

So we set off towards the Ambato, which we were hoping had a ring road around it and we wouldn't have to make our way through the fairly big city.  As we approached it we were relieved to see that it did have a by-pass but unfortunately it made a huge downhill and then a steep uphill to get around the town.  The planners clearly weren't thinking about poor cyclists when they thought about that diversion.

We spent the morning cycling through a similar landscape to the previous day; surrounded by volcanoes and mountains.  There were numerous snow capped peaks that would peep out from the blanket of clouds at various points during the day.  At the bottom of one of the hills, we stopped for a drink of water and noticed that everything was getting covered in dust.  There was a really fine dust in the air, and it was making our clothes and bike speckled in brown.  We presumed it was from the construction that we could see ahead, but it turned out that it was actually coming from something much cooler!

When we got to the top of the hill we could see that there were huge grey clouds in one direction and it was sunny and clear the opposite way.  I asked Kory if he thought that the cloud was actually the volcano erupting but he said that I was being a touch melodramatic and that it was probably just the morning cloud sitting against the hillside. 

As we looked for a lunch spot, we remembered that it was Sunday today and that explained why most places were closed.  Rubbish!  There weren't a lot of towns or villages along the way, and nearly all of the options were closed.  We found one tiny joint, that had lots of locals eating in it.  It was probably one of the dingiest places we have eaten whilst being on this trip so far, but nothing out of the ordinary compared to where we ate in India.  We ordered two plates of whatever the locals were eating, which turned out to be mashed potato patties, with a fried egg (ok, so far), with a sausage type mixture that they had squeezed into what seemed like pig intestine and some pork fat.  The pig intestine was really rubbery and chewy and after trying one I gave up on the other pieces.  As the pork fat still had huge, long, black, spiky hairs on it, I decided to be rude and skip on that delicacy all together.  It came with a glass of something that smelt distinctly like baby vomit (and didn't look much different either), so I stuck to water.  YUMMY lunch! 

Once we set off we immediately hit a hill, and began to slowly plod our way up it.  Kory was in fine form but this time it was me that was losing motivation and getting tired.  So, we stopped for some fruit and some more water at a petrol station.  From here we had fine views of the volcano, which was indeed, spewing out ash high into the air.  Now that we had stopped we could feel that every now and again the ground would shake and we could here the volcano rumbling.  All the locals appeared to be going about their normal business though and no one seemed to be making anything of the ash that was pouring into the air.  I asked the petrol attendant if the volcano usually looks like that and if it shakes every day, and she just laughed and said "no, it never does that usually" but continued on with her work.  Hmmm, we decided that if they weren't worried then neither were we, so we just made the most of it and took lots of photos. 

By the time that we finally reached Riobamba it was getting late and we were tired and hungry.  We looked around for a little while for a hotel, but found a nice one before it got dark.  We also found a decent dinner of roasted chicken, with rice and chips, which was a welcome relief after the disastrous lunch.  To our surprise there was a bakery next to the hotel, which baked homemade banana cake.  Usually there is only plain, sweet, white bread available to varying shapes, so we were really excited and bought a whole loaf of banana bread!
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