Sierra Central

Sierra Central

The plan includes: Volcanoes Chimboratzo & Altar and “Nariz del Diablo” train


– transport: 24.5$

– accomodation: 10$ in Alausí + free wild camping

– food: ~ 15$

– tickets: 32$ “Nariz del Diablo” train

DAY 1 – Macas 6.25$ bus Riobamba 2.5$ bus Chimboratzo Park entrance 2h walk Reugio Carell (camping)

DAY 2 – Reugio Carell 30 min walk Refugio Whymper & Laguna Condor 2h walk Chimboratzo Park entrance 2$ bus Riobamba 2.35$ bus Alausí (10$ Hostal Panamericana)

DAY 3 – Alausí – Sibambe 32$ “Nariz del Diablo” train Alausí 2.35$ bus Riobamba free bus Terminal 2 0.60$ bus Penipe walk & HH Candelaria 3h walk Lake in Altar (camping)

Day 4-5 – Laguna 3h30 walk Altar 5h walk Candelaria walk & HH Victoria de Pusuca 1$ bus Terminal 2 Riobamba 0.30 $ bus Terminal 1 6.25$ night bus Macas 0.50$ bus Santa Ana walk Sevilla don Bosco


I’m lucky to catch the bus on the last minute and what a journey, what a landscape! Macas – Riobamba road gets right through the Sangay National Park, part of UNESCO world heritage. Sangay is the volcano I can admire on clear days from the terrace; but now, so close to it, I enjoy so wonderful scenery: mountains, lakes, rivers, traditional houses, indigenes and animals. So good I’ve found a 15$ battery for my camera ‘cause many amazing places are waiting to be snapped. As a disciplined traveler I informed myself about the itinerary, therefore, after a 2.5$ lunch I take the Guaranda bus and get off exactly at the entrance of Chimboratzo National Park, a 6100 m volcano, the highest of Ecuador and even in the world if we measure it from the center of the Earth.  As we learned at Geography, our planet, due to rotation, is flattened along the geographic axis and bulging around the equator. I am rewarded with an amazing view, a lot of vicuñas (a sort of Peruvian llamas brought here, in Reserva de Producción Faunustíca Chimboratzo), but also with a strong wind and coldness up there, at Carrel Refuge (4800 m). Either I am not used with it anymore, or it is indeed very cold, ‘cause it takes me more time than usual to pitch my tent. I have just one glove (found in Tatras), but both my hands are frozen. After some words with a guide who is preparing for a night expedition with a German fellow, I enter the shelter for a hot coca mate and empanada. Here I find a French young couple and some other day local visitors. I charge a little my camera and soon after I go to sleep. I missed, as a matter of facts, my tent, but I didn’t sleep so well, I, who don’t have such problems. I think the altitude was on the first hand guilty for it. My heart was beating faster uphill and the breathing was heavier. Being cold, I got myself whole in the sleeping bag, so the air was less. I was waking up from time to time to change my position or for a breath of air and I learned an important lesson: not to fart when the air is so precious around here J. In the morning I find ice on my tent and I’m so eager to explore the surroundings. There is a splendid view of the volcano, so close and with no clouds and at no more than 100 m away I see a wolf! Not like ours, but fluffy and friendly, more like a fox. After a slow breakfast of marmalade and crackers with my frozen hands I’m heading to the next refuge and a small volcanic lake where, at around 5100 meters, I find snow. There is plenty of it in Europe right now, but what I have here it is sufficient. The weather is perfect, the landscape fantastic, unfortunately I cannot go further ‘cause I would need a guide and special equipment to do so. You don’t mess with this big snowy guy! Therefore, I go back, pack my things, my almost dry tent and marching through the vicuñas I arrive at the main road where I quickly catch a bus to Riobamba. I change for another to Alausí, the famous town for the train (today just touristic) to Narriz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose). The express doesn’t run on the afternoon anymore, so I have to take the morning one. A bit expensive, but is worth! It is considered the most difficult train in the world. What a landscape, what a marvelous view! Initially named “Condor’s nest” in Quechua language, today the mountain is called Devil’s nose for its shape, and also for the fact that many people died during the railroad construction, more than 500, most of them Jamaicans and some from other Caribbean Islands. In Sibambe, the final stop, there is a little museum with the history of the railway and some local traditional objects. Moreover, an indigenous group performs a few Andean dances too.

On the way back, the bus goes to Quito so it drops me at the entrance of the city (Riobamba). The bus for Candelaria goes not from the main terminal anyway. I’m lucky with the public transport which goes in my direction and I don’t have to pay for the ride J Moreover, the busman helps me a lot with information and tips. There is no car for Candelaria at this time so I take one for Penipe. From here, after a thirty minutes walk, a nice fellow offers me a lift. Señor Marcelo seems surprised when I tell him 1$ is too much, but in the end he takes me for free to my destination, driving some extra kilometers special for me. From the village I follow my way through plantations and pastures to the Altar Volcano in a search for a lagoon/lake. The landscape seems to be very familiar, like home. The hills (if I can call them like this at 3000 m) are green, the dogs bark, the cows moo, people are working the land … the Romanian image is spoiled by some hummingbirds or llama flocks. Is it nice? … yes it is! And it’s nicer when I reach the lake, where I’m gonna spend the night at, initially a quiet one, a little naughty with a rain later on. My little yellow mistress barely deals with when she’s getting wet. I’m waked up by some birds in the morning and the gray of the clouds doesn’t look so good. What I’ve read on Internet seems not to be the same thing I find here. First of all, there is no refuge here, secondly I don’t think the lake I’ve found is the famous one and if it is so, the walking time doesn’t match at all, or I’m too super fast? At least the rubber boots were useful at one point on the second day adventure towards the Altars. I went as closer as possible (4400m) to the great volcano (5319 m), which resembles so much with Matterhorn, the Swiss mountain on the Toblerone chocolate. If you want to go further, as for all the mountains above 5000 m, you’ll need crampons, ice axe, etc. They say this one it is the most technical and difficult to escalate. But I’m deeply satisfied with the spot I’ve reached – a breathtaking panorama and moreover, I see a white-tailed deer. I encounter some other little lakes (tarns), and I reach the conclusion there is no other big one around here, or not easy accessible. Therefore, I’m going back to the village happy, satisfied and a little tired after 8 hours and a half of going up and down. I’ve finished at lunch the last can, so I’m waiting for a local mereienda in Riobamba to appease my hunger, but the bus to Macas leaves in 5 minutes since I arrive at the terminal after walking, hitch-hiking and bussing twice. I buy in a hurry two buns and revel in a Chinese action film. At one point the bus has a malfunction so we have to wait a couple of hours for another one. I sleep all the way to Macas. It’s around 2 AM when I arrive home. It’s quiet and dark, not just because it’s night, but there is no electricity. A toilet and a bed are waiting for me. Good night!              

Huge blister

Volcano on my back


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