It is wonderful to be back in Ecuador! Bart and I began by stopping by Otavalo – a town containing Latin America’s largest open-air market. The market was smaller because we caught it on a Monday, but we still managed to find several fun gifts. We also visited Cotachi, a town known for the leather goods the locals produce. Bart and I both picked up a leather jacket for the cold weather that was to come in the Andes of South America.
On the second day in Ecuador we drove south to Quito. My former host family, who I lived with in 2007, greeted us with open arms. This was the closest I’ve been to being with family in over two months. I can’t explain how wonderful it was to be back in Quito and share laughs, stories, and drinks with my host family here. Along with the hospitality from my family, I showed Bart around Quito, taking him to the Basilica, the Telefatiqo (cable car) overlooking the city, the equator (“center of the world”) monument, and many other places in town. Despite the lack of oxygen, I even enjoyed my two-mile-high runs, starting with a wide grin and ending with a pant equivalent to a puppy after an hour at the dog park. After a far-too-short two nights with my host family, we took off south (always south) to Riobamba.
We chose Riobomba for two reasons – for its proximity to Banos (an adventure town with hot springs, active volcanic eruptions, biking, rafting, and hiking) for Bart, and its towering mountain to the northwest, Mt. Chimborazo, for me. Chimborazo is a big milestone for me for two reasons. At 20,702 ft / 6310 m, it is the tallest mountain I will have climbed to date (and will allow me to break the 20,000 ft barrier), and because of the geometry of the earth, the peak of it is also the furthest point on the planet from the center of the earth. A landmark climb for anyone who successfully summits it.
We met Silvia, my host aunt and together we found a guide who would take me up the mountain. The next day, Bart took off to Banos to soak in the hot springs, while I now prepare to hike up the slopes of Chimborazo. With any luck, tomorrow, at sunrise on the morning of May 30th, I will be further from the core of the planet than anyone else on earth.
(sorry, no photos this time, I have to take off for the climb in 20 minutes…)