DAY 523 - Bad WEATHER…

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Day 523 - Chimborazo, Ecuador - 10612 km

A misplanned journey..?

The rain season has started a few weeks ago and it has been gloomy the past days. An unlucky planning of seasons, as it turns out. I cycled through Central America during summer, which is the rain season there. The Andes south from the equator (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia) has its rain season from November till April. This means wet clothes almost everyday. They say it usually gets cloudy in the afternoons, with a sunny start of the day, but it turns out it’s actually quite unpredictable and rain can start any time of day. It’s very demotivating to start the day wet. Because most of the time I’m above 3000m a cloudy day means a foggy day, sometimes having no view at all for hours. Just the black mud and gravel that move underneath me and the pàramo grass on the flanks. The beautiful landscapes have turned into a damp reality.

To see it from the bright side though, some of my favourite pictures contain some heavy rain clouds. The surprising turns of weather has its good moments, with wide views into the valley out of nowhere, sometimes just for minutes. It’s a landscape full of drama, which intrigues me more than palm trees and blue skies. The smell of pine trees is comforting and the local villagers are all smiles - they are used to the weather and have adapted. I often meet local farmers and children along the track. Everyone says politely ‘buenos dias’.

A farmer with a friendly smile walks in opposite direction. I stop to shake his hand and have a chat. My Spanish is still just very basic. He stands very close to me, one hand on my arm and one on my handlebar bag. Like a dear friend I haven’t seen for a long time. I ask to take his picture. He stands back and put his hands together in front of him. Grubby hands with muscled, thick fingers, that have worked the earth for many years.

I make a stop in a little town called Angamarca after a long downhill through the rain. There is a hotel, but it’s so bare-bones that I decide to camp. The level of comfort in these villages is even lower than my small tent. Damp concrete walls, no heating, no warm water, no wifi. The conditions are very poor, but it’s what the people are used too. It looks like Angamarca has a long history, the houses look incredibly old with doorways that tell many stories.

The progress on these roads is again slow, about 40km in a full day, often gaining about 1500m on mostly unpaved tracks. Next up is Salinas de Bolivar, a quaint little town that has its own chocolat factory and is known for its co-ops and cheese shops. Then onwards to Chimborazo, Ecuadors highest volcano. It should be one of the highlights of my journey through Ecuador, but my hope are thin. Slowly the road inclines again 4000m. After a fairly sunny morning the skies turn dark again. Since the past days I have never seen a glimps of Chimborazo. While getting closer I’m doubting it even exists. A thunderstorm is developing right in front of me. Just before it starts raining I fly up the drone to capture the moment (top photo). At the highest point of the pass (4400m) I get stuck in a hail storm. At the refuge entrance where the trails to the summit start I take a break to warm up a bit and decide on going up and camp or going down to the warm valley. For a brief moment I get a clear view on the summit. I take a picture but it’s nothing impressive. I’m wet and cold and want to get to lower altitudes as soon as possible. The other day I was talking with other travellers about their experiences on Chimborazo, they had clear skies, with amazing views. Every experience is so different and personal, dependent on the way you travel and the time of day and season. There’s no sense in being mad or disappointed with nature. You have to work with it. Afterwards it’s always worth the effort and a unique experience.

 
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 The little town of Angamarca

The little town of Angamarca

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 A truck full of shy children who all dug away when I pulled out my camera. I took the picture when I said ‘OK, Adios!’ and they came up to see if I was gone.

A truck full of shy children who all dug away when I pulled out my camera. I took the picture when I said ‘OK, Adios!’ and they came up to see if I was gone.

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 Chololat from Salinas

Chololat from Salinas

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 Salinas de Bolivar

Salinas de Bolivar

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 Just before the hail storm - Chimborazo (hidden in the clouds) in the middle of the picture

Just before the hail storm - Chimborazo (hidden in the clouds) in the middle of the picture

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 View on the summit of Chimborazo. Only for a few seconds the clouds broke away, the only moment I have seen the mountain.

View on the summit of Chimborazo. Only for a few seconds the clouds broke away, the only moment I have seen the mountain.