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Our journey to Tunguragua Volcano.

This a long blog, with lots of pictures.
Maybe you have read about the Tungurahua volcano that started erupting on August 19th.
A friend, Al Bourassa, thought it would be cool to make a trek to see it, he tried to organize a trip fairly quickly after the eruptions started.  Michael and I wanted to go, but we had our whale watching trip planned and paid for already, so we told Al we would be back on from the coast in four days, and we would be ready to go on Tuesday morning.  So that is what we did.  We got back to Cuenca from the coast around 6:00 pm. on Monday, dropped Oscar off at our friends, went home, downloaded all the pics from the coast, unpacked our warm weather clothing and repacked cold weather clothing so we could sit on a mountain top.
We were gone again by 7:00 am. on Tuesday 
Our friend Al had arranged for a really great guy named Miguel to do the driving.  He has a big Van, unbelievably comfortable, and since there were only the four of us; Miguel, Al, Michael and I, we had LOTS of room. 
This is Miguel.   He is a GREAT guy.
We had heard the volcanic activity had slowed, but was still going on. 
We were ALL really excited about what we might see.
We drove along and Miguel would stop whenever we asked so we could take pictures.  It is impossible to drive through Ecuador and not stop and enjoy the vistas. 
Our first stop along the road.  Ecuador is beautiful.
I was taking pictures of the scenery and I noticed a man walking down a hill on the other side of the road. He was smiling the whole time.  I thought he had a beautiful, joyful face and I wanted his photograph,  I asked our driver Miguel to ask the man for permission for me to photograph him, (I am uncomfortable pointing my camera at someone without their consent), Miguel and the Gentleman had a short conversation and Miguel felt that the answer was “No”, the man thought I should photograph his beautiful country, and not an “Old Man” like him.  So I abided by that wish.  I handed my camera to Michael, and suddenly this gentleman had no problem having his picture take.  Go Figure!!!
We stopped in the town where “The Devil’s Nose Train” trip originates, Alausi.  We had all decided to skip the train ride, it is several hours long, and we wanted to get to Tunguragua, however Alausi is a really nice place to spend time in.  We ran into what we think might have been an important meeting for local Indigenous people.  We weren’t sure what was going on, but it was a feast for the eyes. 
This is a young man serving a drink to the women that were in the plaza.  Their clothing is so colorful and dynamic.  We bought one of the “local” hats with a peacock feather when we were there.
Town meeting, or something. 
A few young women wearing the traditional clothing.  We have been told that this tradition might not continue with future generations.
Loved this guys Poncho.
The Devils Nose Train.  They used to let people sit on top of it during the journey through the mountain, that is no longer an option.  
Monument in Aluasi.
We traveled on to Riobamba, and during the drive Miguel kept in contact with a friend he has that lives near Tunguragua, it seemed like a “Go” for volcanic activity.  When we got to the hotel in Riobamba, from the street the hotel seemed like a place that I would have told Michael to drive right by, but it was clean, quiet, and nice, $25.00 per night for two people. 
We should have been able to see the volcano from the lobby of the hotel, but it was too cloudy, so while we waited for the weather to clear, Miguel thought it might be nice to take us to a town not far from Riobamba that is known for their leather crafts.  That sounded good, so off we went to a town named Guano.  Yeah, Guano, we all laughed at the fact that we were in a town named  SH _T in English. But as usual, Miguel was right.  It was a really charming little town.
Remnants of the original church.  It was built in the 1700’s, but burned down. 
OK, what is the deal with the skull??
 Decoration on the new Church, right next to the old one.

A Llama hanging around the church.

After our trip to Guano we went back to our hotel to meet with Miguel’s friend Bolivar.
Bolivar is a truck driver, and he knows the back roads to the volcano.  We jumped in the van and left Riobamaba around 5:00 pm.  OMG, yeah, Bolivar knew all the back roads, unfortunately his usual routes were now blocked by the Ecuadorian Military.  I GUESS THEY KNEW THEM AS WELL.  So we had to find another way up the mounain.  We twisted and turned and went up roads that a mountain goat couldn’t challenge.  I was kinda, no, not kinda, very freaked out going up the mountain.  We finally got to the summit around 7:00 – it was dark, pouring rain and foggy.  You could not see more than ten feet ahead of you in the fog.  Bummer.  NO VOLCANO IN SIGHT.
So we sat, and hoped for the weather to change.  Miguel, Bolivar, Al, Michael and I waited.  Miguel dropped down his DVD player in the Van and we watched the movie “Transporter”.  Michael and I were sitting on a mountain, in total darkness, waiting to see a volcano, and watching a movie at the same time.  It was surreal. 
Some of the local people came out to see what we were doing, Miguel explained we wanted to see the Volcano.  They said they had watched it, but for the past fews days it had been too rainy and cloudy.  So Miguel said it would be a good idea if we got off the mountain before too much more rain.  So we traveled back down to our hotel.
A pic in the  town named Penipe, evacuation routes in the event of volcanic activity.
Michael and I had seen Tsumani signs when we were in Washington State, this reminded us of that. 
We tried again the following morning, we traveled back up the mountain and we passed mudslides that had happened after we left the mountain the night before, we were lucky we got out when we did. We traveled back to the top of the mountain and it was still too cloudy to see the volcano. Well, we missed that, but got to see the local people.  Miguel, our guide was thrilled that he had found this very rural part of Ecuador, so you can imagine how we felt. 
It was beautiful.
People were coming and going all morning while we were up there, I think we we an oddity. 
Some pics from the morning, the local people were going back and forth with animals to sell their milk.
 We had seen this little girl the night before, she was bringing in their sheep.

 Horses tied up after bringing their load of milk up the mountain.
Curious kids checking us out.
Nice mountain people.
This poor guy only had one horn.
Scenery along the way home.
I have never seen the Smokey Mountians,
 I wonder if they are as beautiful as this?

A mountain stream.
On our way back to Cuenca Miguel stopped to let us take a picture of the Chimborazo Volcano.  We went in search of one, couldn’t see it, but one the way home, we got to see the one we had climbed, how cool is that.

These folks were just waiting for a bus.

 Ecuador, gotta love it.




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