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Volcano Turungahua

Written on: Thursday September 13th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Author: Julie


We had quite an adventure today: we took on the volcano and it won! We had made plans with Dominic (the tandem bike guy) to hike up to the refugio near the top of the Turungahua volcano today. During the explosion of December 2006, the old refugio had been destroyed by the lava flows but a new one was rebuilt a few months ago when the volcano activity died down.

We left our hostel early in the morning to meet Dominic for a breakfast at a restaurant near the start of the trail. We had a traditional Ecuadorian breakfast of pork, rice and beans as well as potato patties and eggs. It was delicious, filling and cheap.

We could have taken a taxi mid-way up the mountain for 15$ but like Dominic says ?Taxis are for sissies?. Two hours into the trail, as we intersected with the road, it started to rain hard and we were quickly soaked from head to toe. I, being someone who does not do well in damp weather, quickly got frozen and out came the toque and mitts. We were lucky enough to stop at an old tienda and spent the next hour talking to the owner while we waited out the rain. From what we understood (Dominic is proficient in Spanish, but ours is just starting to come along) the tienda (store) used to be the starting point of the trail from the main road but the road was lengthened and now no one stops in. It was sad to see only a few shelves stocked. He now farms the slopping lands behind his store, growing corn. He talked about the volcano explosion and how where he was located was very safe since the lava flowed down the opposite mountain slope, away from his home.

The rain abated, we had dried a bit and decided to continue up the road to the start of the second part of the trail. As we walked, we past field after field of corn and papaya as well as many green houses perched on the slope in an awkward 60 degree angle. It seemed that the greenhouses were barely holding on and would topple over with a strong wind. We found the trailhead and with the train it had turned into a slippery, muddy mess. We continued to climb higher and higher, following the same trail as the local horses and cows did, skipping over their poop trying not to sink into the muck. The vegetation changed from trees and shrubs to more and more bamboo/sugar cane. Over the years, the trail had been gouged out of the mountain side by the many hikers, horses/cows and rain rivulets so it was now 10 feet below ground and only a small narrow wedge of space left where one could only put one boot in front of the other. The boys, being taller and having longer legs than me, were able to straddle the lip of the trail and inch their way up instead of having to shimmy along in the mud like I did. Above us, the bamboo had canopied till it felt like we were climbing in caves with vegetation hanging just low enough, that every time I hit something with my head, I thought a spider or something more icky would fall on it and down my neck. I made sure to touch as little as possible. Every once in a while the vegetation would open up and we would see a little of the fields that ran alongside of the trail but the rain clouds were think and we could barely see further than our noses. During a break on a ridge, out of the mist surrounding us, came out 2 black horses and 1 white horse. It was such a beautiful, peaceful moment? till we heard the volcano rumbling somewhere far above us. It sounded like thunder but more deeply. More hours past and we continued to work our way up to our destination of the refugio but then we ran into a guide with clients trailing in rubber boots who informed us that we still had another couple of hours to go before we reached out destination. It was getting close to 3 PM and we didn?t want to run the chance of getting stuck on the mountain after the sunset at 6:30 so we made the decision to turn around, saddened that we didn?t get to see the refugio or the old lava flows. One day, when it is sunny and warm, we will come back and conquer Turungahua. Coming back down was lots of fun as we slipped and slide our way down the trail that we had just moments before been huffing and puffing to climb at a snail?s pace. Well, Kevin and I were puffing; Dominic was closer to skipping since he?s in fantastic shape after having biked for the past year with a heavy tandem bike over first the Rockies and now the Andes. We?re sure he could have made it with lots of time to spare to the refugio, but he was a good enough person to stick around with us. Plus, he and Kevin were hunting for the dragon that lived below the volcano while dodging the enemy mud men that would ensnare us in the caves along the trial. Yes, climbing volcanos in the rain with those two can be quite an adventure!

We made it back to your hostel at 5:30 and headed for a well-deserved dip in the hot baths after climbing for 8 hours. Our clothes and boots were caked in mud! I guess we were the mud men we had feared the whole time.


From Pete at HP on Sep 18th, 2007

Hi Kevin and Julie Too bad it rained, today's APOD is Tungurahua, from last year's eruption, http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

From Johnny Wrinn on Sep 19th, 2007

My colleague at work wanted to show me a pic today, ends up it's the volcano you two are exploring :) I am so envious of you both :)...and it hasn't gotten very cold yet...

From Kevin and Julie's RTW on Oct 1st, 2007

Thanks for the link Pete, it's our desktop image. Unfortunately, we didn't get close enough to see any volcanic activity.