3rd and 4th May

Saturday 3 May

After a long great night, we feel much better. Today, Saturday, there is a market of clothes, hats, small jewels for the indigenous people. Here, each community can be recognised by their poncho and hat. It’s very beautiful clothes, full of vivid colours. Maritza explains us about them.

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Afterwards, we go to eat with our hosts at a nearby market, the Mercado de la Merced. The market is always the perfect place to eat the typical food. We try llapingacho (a potato pure, put in shape of a potato and fried, with sausage, meat and dressing), yahuar locro (a soup with potatoes, pig stomach, in which you put blood pudding and lemon for adding taste), and of course hornada (a pig toasted in a giant oven, served with corn).

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For drinking, we take delicious natural fruit juice, with the ice of the Chimborazo! There used to be a lot of people climbing to the Chimborazo to bring back ice blocks, before the invention and the democratisation of the fridge and freezer. But now only one person still doing this job: Baltasar Ushca Si. He is quite famous in Riobamba.

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In the afternoon, we walk a little in the city, enjoying the company of our hosts. At night, we prepare some crêpes, in which we add chocolate, honey, and local fruits: passion fruit and granadilla.

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Sunday 4 May

We prepared all our bags yesterday, in order to leave quickly this morning. We have to cover more than 100km, to go to Puyo, in the jungle, down the Andes. The first part of the road is nice, going slightly down, in good asphalt. But as we pass Penipe, and head towards Baños, the road becomes dirty: it goes near the Tungurahua volcano, and with the recent eruptions of the volcano, the road has been covered with ashes (regularly, the ashes reach Riobamba, and Maritza and Stefano have to sweep the whole house!), and some parts have even collapsed. Several times, we have to make a detour, because a lahar (landslide made of the volcano ashes and heavy rains) has taken the road down. We also pass a place where the road has collapsed a few metres, and people come here with pickaxe and spade to arrange it, because now no car can go through.

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Finally, we arrive to Baños for lunch. This city’s fame comes from its! thermal waters. There is natural hot water springs, due to the waters coming down from the Tungurahua. In addition, Baños is on the main route to Puyo, in the Ecuadorian Amazonian jungle. So there are many tourists in the city, but it’s still pretty.

The route down to Puyo is absolutely wonderful. It follows the course of the Pastaza river, one of the main contributors to the Amazon river from Ecuador. The river has created a canyon, with the mountains covered with rainforest on each side. There are many waterfalls on the sides. As you can imagine, there are many attractions for tourists: cable car over the river, zip line, natural swimming pools, and many restaurants and hotels (with high prices, because it’s for tourists).

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As we go down, the temperature rises, and the vegetation on the sides of the road becomes denser. It’s also very humid here. There are some wonderful orchids growing naturally here. From the road, we can see the Pastaza river disappearing far away in the West, in a never-ending succession of curves, inside a sea of trees. Our first glimpse of the Amazonian region!

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As the sun sets, we are still quite far from Puyo. So we’ll sleep at the village before, Shell. Yes, the village name comes from the Dutch oil company: in the 40s, they prospected around here for oil (and cleared the first road from Baños to here, built the small airport). After ten year, they left without finding anything! bad luck, because everywhere else in Ecuador, there were oil deposits. In Shell, we find a small hostel next to the road. The traffic is very noisy, even having closed the windows, we hear the cars and trucks as if we were on the road sidewalks.

Here comes the video of this wonderful route: