Tag Archives: volcan tungurahua

Richie Vs. the Volcano/Escape from Ecuador

It’s been a while since we left Ecuador. Weeks maybe. Perhaps even a half-moon? I dunno, but we were there for a while, nearly 3 months in total and almost running out our visa. A bit of a surprise to me Ecuador it was indeed. Cheap gas, the Andes, and a finally friendly and unsuspecting populace made for good times in the land of the Cuy.

Livin’ la vida selva was alright I guess, but the Andes are where it’s at, they’ve always been, and we was just itchin’ to get back to the mountains and commune with the giants after slingin’ verbs in Amazonia.

Volcan Tungurahua: Ever since passing up the chance to dose on the slopes of one of Nicaragua’s fire-breathing monsters we’d been pining for that perfect set of circumstances that would let a body get up close and personal with one of earth’s angry giants. Dubbed Tungurahua, which translates to ‘throat of fire’ in the Incan mother tongue, this little gem puffs its stuff out in Ecuador’s sierra oriental, poking its smoky ass through the clouds and looming large over various assorted hamlets but most notably the touristic mecca of Baños. Baños, an interesting place in its own right, would be our base of operations as we prepped for the climb and recovered from yet another round of infectious parasites. A spa-town, lil’ Baños plays host to a various different assortment of mineral-rich hot-spring bathing complexes and tour companies touting exciting jungle adventures, bungee jumping, and the like to both vacationing locals and enterprising palefaces alike. Palefaces and tanfaces mingling together in harmony there was and none of the nonesuch that comes along with those other places: Antigua or Granada or all of Costa Rica. Competetive prices would allow a body to score a $5 hotel room with cable tv and a private bathroom positioned just right to enable them to ride out their parasites while catching up on lost episodes of Two and a Half Men and 2 Broke Girls.

Gosh, I hope those bitches land on their feet

A trail from Banos leads up to the refugio just within the tree line, an 8km slog with 6000+ feet of elevation change.

Semi-abandoned yet still standing refugio at 3800m on the slopes of Tungurahua. Planning to wait out the weather, I would haul up 3 days worth of food. Delicious canned tuna and Ramen noodles for breakfast lunch and dinner it would be with a small stream nearby yielding clean yet ashy water.

Ashy Richie. The entire top half of the volcano is covered in ash, blowing everywhere. It gets into your eyes, your nose, your mouth…everywhere. On one of the trips up to the refugio we ran into a guide that has been up to the crater, who noted that a body would be mad not to scale Tungurahua’s ashy sides without an axe and crampons. Having little in our mountaineering arsenal save for an iron will the refugio broom handle would have to do double duty as an ice axe and, for crampoms, the Ecuadorian mystery boots and the manboy that made them legend.

View from the abandoned seismic-shack at about 4000m. Moonscape from here on up.

Moonscape baby. Just over the first crest now and looking up towards the crater, which lies somewhere just back behind the clouds.

Refugio attic. Cozy indeed.

That was it, I never made it to the top and it was probably a good thing at that. I got to within 50 or 60 yards of the thing. Close enough to kick a soccer ball into it. Winds near the top were picking up marble-sized stones and hurling them horizontally. Ash in my eyes, ash everywhere. A heart felt decision indeed it was to descend. Coming down to the refugio and taking a piss, the ground shook and lil’ Tungurahua made its presence felt. Had I had made it to the crater, I would have probably still been in there, chilling out reading a Louis L’amour paperback and eating a tuna fish sandwich, waiting for the winds to die down.

A nice cap to Ecuador and after Tungurahua, it was all downhill to the Peruvian border. A brief stop in Cuenca and then some desert delights in Vilcabamba before tackling the frontier ‘road’ to the Peruvian highlands.

A little RnR in Vilcabamba. Carrying 3 people on the back over shitty roads in the Amazon likely contributed to the rear frame cracking.

A little desert scenery in Vilcabamba.

A good section of the ‘road’ that links the southern reaches of Ecuador with the Peruvian border. 100 miles of slick ass mud and white-knuckled death grip, cursing God and whoever engineered this thing and called it a road the whole time.

Drying out a bit at a military checkpoint, Peru in sight. Who are you? Where you going?

Entonces, peace out Ecuador. It’s been real but it’s time to go, to move onward with the sun at our back and eyes on the prize.

The Incans await.

Peruvian Preview: