We got dropped off at an intersection on the outskirts of town and eventually found a cab who took us to Hostel Oasis. This was a cute and clean little family run hostel with 2 friendly resident pooches. We dropped our bags off and went for a walk.
Eventually we found the offices for ProBici - a mountain bike tour company we had emailed previously about doing a day trip cycling down Ecuador’s highest mountain. Chimborazo is a dormant volcano 6268m high, but due to the equatorial bulge, it’s summit is the farthest point from the centre of the earth.
We had a meeting with the main man at ProBici and got fitted out with a bike, gloves, pads and a lid. We agreed on a 6:30am pick up for the next morning to head up to nearby Chimborazo. After we got a bite to eat and an early night. Unfortunately that night poor Bec developed a sick tummy - whether from a bug or food poisoning we still don’t know.
The next morning we woke up and Bec was still feeling rubbish, so she understandably pulled the plug and opted for a day in bed to rest whilst I didn’t want to lose both of our deposits and went on the tour.
Myself and the other cyclist - Brice from France - got picked up by our guide Diego in a 4wd Hilux and began to head up towards the base camp of Chimborazo. We made several stops to check out a canyon, a through section of some ancient eruptions, a fighting bull farm and a cute little family of Vicuñas.
Eventually we pulled up at the first base camp around 4800m above sea level. We were surrounded by snow. And nearly on the equator! Mind blown. We jumped out of the car, layered up and began a slow trudge through the ankle deep snow up towards the second base camp. Although it took a while, I was feeling pretty good considering we had been at sea level less than a week ago and I had forgotten to take my Diamox (sorry Mum!)
By the time we reached the car again, the sun was up and nearly all of the snow around the lower levels had melted. We padded up and set off. All of the riding for the first 15km or so in the park was on dirt roads, but after that we had a good mix of riding on the main road, dirt roads, river beds and some narrow bush tyre tracks.
The scenery was awesome, but unfortunately my photos don’t really do it justice as the rain was on and off through the day and I was a little paranoid about our camera getting wet (our gopro case broke a couple of days before). We descended from barren, snow covered, volcanic rock down to rich green farmlands. We even got to have a picnic lunch next to a natural spring and Incan ruins!
Diego was awesome, super friendly and informative. For the most part he was driving either just in front or behind the bikes, but when we were riding away from the main road he gave us a walk-talky to stay in contact with him and would meet us at the next check point. Also, even though he spoke decent English he was happy to talk and explain stuff to me in Spanish to help me practice.
It was an awesome day out, and the only bad thing was that poor Bec was too crook to come.
We had another night in Riobamba before waking up to get a delicious breakkie across the road from the hostel and jumping on the 1 hour bus to Baños.