Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Avenue of the Volcanoes--Day 1

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Get ready for a visual feast as I share with you a recap of TerraDiversa's "Avenue of the Volcanoes" tour we took last week with seven other adventurers. Ecuador is such an amazingly gorgeous country, and this trip is an absolute "must do" for visitors with sufficient time and all residents. We saw and did so much during our 4 days together that I need to break the journey down into separate days to properly present the experience.

After an early morning pickup at our homes by a roomy and comfortable Mercedes scenic van we were off to ride the Devil's Nose train in Alausi. Shortly out of Cuenca the cameras came out as we were treated to beautiful countryside vistas.

Our talented guide, Juan Munoz, shared interesting information along the way and throughout our excursion.

I cannot emphasize enough how much enrichment a qualified guide adds to a trip like this. I know several friends with their own vehicles have traveled to some of the sights we witnessed. Seeing something is certainly better than not seeing it, but to learn along the way the history, geology, flora and fauna, and culture adds immeasurably to one's experience.

The Devil's Nose train is one of the great railway engineering feats of the late 19th century. Originally part of the rail system connecting Guayaquil with the Andean highlands, an almost vertical gain in altitude at the section known as Nariz del Diablo (Devil's Nose)stalled construction for years. Finally a design was created using a series of switchbacks to traverse the difficult terrain.

We were especially fortunate because the tracks had very recently been upgraded and a brand new, comfortable train put into service.

During the two hour ride once again we gazed out at remarkably exquisite landscapes.

From Alausi we went through more amazing countryside,

(This is quinoa, a high protein grain that grows best at high altitude)

stopping to see the first church built in Ecuador in 1534--only 42 years after Columbus set foot in the Americas. Amazing.

Then it was up, up, up to almost 21,000 feet to view the mighty El Chimborazo mountain and its breathtaking glaciers.

After a l-o-n-g day we rolled into Banos, the adventure capital of Ecuador, for some much needed R&R that evening.

Tomorrow: are you ready for some ziplining?

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