Back in the saddle again...

Trip Start Jan 23, 2008
Trip End May 23, 2008

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For the first time on our trip, I was able to get on a bike!!!!

Yesterday Bill and I went on a mountain bike trip where the guides drive you up to the trailhead of Chimborazo volcano (15,750 ft)and then you get to ride downhill on mountain bikes.

The drive to the trailhead was fascinating, as our guide Gallo provided a running commentary about points of interest, history, and culture.

One the way up, we saw

- the two climbing huts on volcano Chimborazo
- high paramo grasslands
- even higher sand paramo - desolation unlimited
- amazing road grades showing the volcanic and sedimentary layers
- a large estate where they raise among other things bulls for fbull fighting.
- llamas, alpacas, and vinuņas (wild cousins of the other two)

The entrance to the National Park was perhaps one of the most unique sights. Basically, at a curve in the dirt road, there was an empty ship container and three guys sitting in a jeep playing cards. Our guide brought them some snacks and asked if they needed any messages relayed (they donīt have radios of their own).

Up at the trailhead, Bill and I headed up to the climbers hut at 16,400 ft to eat our lunch and check out the conditions on Chimborazo. We ran into the guided group that we had been climbing with on Cotopaxi, and learned that the guide and one of his clients had summitted that morning. I think this was a bit of a blow to Bill, as we had assumed the conditions wouldnīt allow it. Cést la vie, I guess.

By the time we headed back down to the car, it was snowing. But the road was clear and the descent was a total blast, following at times the main road, at times old washed out roads, and at times soemthing more like singletrack. Good dirty fun!

Now, before you think this sounds too posh, we opted for a longer ride that included a couple good long uphill climbs. Talk about work! But every uphill was rewarded with a zippy bumpy descent. I would NOT have wanted to negoiate these roads in a car!

The weather was a mix of snow, fog, and rain so we didnīt get many views of the big volcano above, but we were wowed by lots of views of the countryside below. Sights along the way down included

- unexcavated Incan ruins
- an Incan silver mine
- an intersting rustic monument for folks who have championed indigenous rights (land reform, etc)
- small indigenous farms where they grow carrots, potatoes, wheat, barley and animals (at 13,000 feet)
- the indigenous farmers moving their animals (sheep, dairy cows, pigs, and an occaisional burrow) from grazing areas back to their farms at the end of the day.
- an appreciation for how tough this rural lifestyle must be. Little kids as young as 5 years old were herding independently, as well as old ladies who had trouble walking (but still managed to knit WHILE they herded the animals), as well as young girls carrying babies on their backs.

It was a wonderful and rich experience.

If anyone is in the area, look up Gallo at Probici Ciclotur.

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