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Ecuador - Central Highlands

We drove towards Baños, a handsome town with thermal baths and surrounded by mountains. The scenery along the route was spectacular with lots of waterfalls. After a brief stay in Baños, a dip in the baths and unsuccessful attempts to glimpse the local volcano, Tungurahua, we moved on to Riobamba. There we found a company specialising in mountain bike tours on Chimborazo Volcano. The safety briefing for a downhill bike ride on the following day took about 2 hours - very professional, but a little over the top. On the morning of the ride, we were driven up Chimborazo to 4,800m (15,750ft) to the snow line. We then hiked through the snow to 5,100m (16,750ft) whilst our guide prepared the bikes. Once back at 4,800m we set off , down rough tracks through volcanic ash and taking a little relief on a few properly paved roads. The scenery was fantastic and we saw Alpacas, Llamas and Vicuñas. The 37 kilometer route was downhill, apart from a 3 - 4 kilometer grind up a washed out track. Rachel was in heaven, whilst I spent some time thinking - if the surface doesn't improve, I might be checking out 'the Afterlife' a little earlier that expected. We survived the day and I was allowed a reasonably quiet 24 hours to recover. After a tour of Riobamba, it was time to move on towards the Quilatoa Loop... or so we thought....

As we drove north, an warning light came on. Decision time - ignore and continue to the Loop? - eventually dealing with the problem when we finally get to Quito, or take a direct route to Quito and get to a garage? Happily, we chose the latter option, but that's a story for another day....

We stopped in Saquisilí to give the van a rest, check out the local market and have a spot of lunch. The lunch, a soup, was the first of a few menu mistakes covering a few days. Tripe soup has its own special flavour - no me gusta... ...and Rachel's face was a picture.

Onwards and upwards.

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