(June 7 – written by Dave)
We’ve had a nice, relaxing day here in Riobamba. We intentionally didn’t plan any tours, or visits to historical sites. We slept in, enjoyed the hotel brekkie and moved slow all day – perfect.
That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy Riobamba. Nancy picked up a walking tour map of the city and we sort of roughly followed it as we went for a brief morning walkabout. Riobamba was founded in 1534 becoming the first modern city in Ecuador. It was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1797 and eventually moved 14k to where it sits today. I think they still count the 360 years of the old site as part of the age of the city here – not sure how that works.
On our walk today we saw a good number of historical Spanish buildings, all sort of intermixed with a bunch of rather shocking modern designs. It would seem that in the 60s or 70s, someone in the planning department thought that Riobamba needed to be modernized. I suspect that his person or persons no longer works in the department. While clearly not up to UNESCO standards the visually jarring affect is interesting all the same. One can’t help wondering “what were they thinking” as your eye moves across the streetscape.
We hadn’t planned on it but we stumbled on Riobamba’s main produce and meat market as well. We didn’t really need anything but it was fun seeing everything for sale and the colours were great. Several of the stall owners asked us about our trip and we got to practice our Spanish a bit. I took a photo of Nancy and one stall owner – the stall owner was quite chuffed, but insisted in removing her market smock and her wool sweater before the photo.
This part of South America was known for a fierce tribe of locals known as Puruhá. They predated the Incas and never succumbed to the Inca’s attempts to colonize them. Of course the Spanish sort of took over everything but the Puruhá nation never really gave in. There was actually a Puruhá rebellion in the late 1800s, some 350 years after the Spanish arrived. It was ultimately not a huge success but over the years it has taken on legendary status and cemented the Paccha reputation.
We had more clear skies today, mostly in the morning. It would have been a nice day for riding but it was also a nice day for exploring. The forecast going forward is better than we’ve seen in some time -there is actually at least a little sun for every day in the coming week. This morning both Chimborazo and El Altar volcanoes were in clear view from the city. El Altar is actually the remains of a mountain that was once taller than Chimborazo. Today there are 9 peeks in a horseshoe formation, all over 5,000 meters. They are all that remains of a massive mountain that blew its top off about 100 years before the Spanish arrived.
More photos of the day follow…