I feel a joy each time I drive up the rutted dirt road to the gated entrance of Marco Cruz’s Chimborazo Lodge. I could blame the euphoria on the high altitude. After all, the lodge is located at 4000 meters, about 13,123 feet, above sea level.
But this euphoria comes from my joy of wild places. The Chimborazo Lodge is tucked into a small mountain valley full of tufted grass, orange-flowered Chuquiragua bushes, and low-lying wild flowers. This habitat is home to the small Andean fox, white-tailed deer, and little bunny rabbits as well as the glorious Star of Chimborazo hummingbird.
When skies are clear, the Volcano Chimborazo pulls my eyes like iron filings to a magnet. The glacier and high peaks love to play hide-and-seek as clouds dance back and forth in the early mornings and late afternoons. By midday, the mountain often disappears completely and we are left wondering if we will see it again on our visit. I have had days with nary a glimpse and others with constant moments of surprise as the mountain fights back the cloud cover. Chimborazo does seem to control the local weather and it is easy to see why myths have grown around the mythical Taita Chimborazo.
Sometimes at night, the clouds are scoured away and the dark Andean sky lights up with millions of tiny stars. In a world where it seems next to impossible to find the Milky Way, there it is, traveling almost directly from the northeast shoulder of Chimborazo towards the hidden town of Riobamba.
Reasons to Stay at the Chimborazo Lodge
There are many reasons to stay at the Chimborazo Lodge. One is that it is the closest lodging to the Chimborazo Wildlife Preserve and provides easy driving access to the hiking trails that go to the Polylepis Forest and to the hiking trails at the Chimborazo Refugios. Just a drive along the highway in between the lodge and the entrance to the nature preserve can be exciting with almost guaranteed spotting of herds of wild vicuña grazing the paramo grasses.
The second reason is that if you plan on summiting Chimborazo, lodge owner Marco Cruz has years of experience planning successful trips and can provide all the details and connections you need to make the climb. It is his love of mountain climbing that has built this lodge. All of the buildings looks like something out of a German winter wonderland, without the snow. The decor hanging on walls comes from years of memorabilia collected on mountaineering trips to the European Alps and Mount Everest. The food is inspired by Southern Germany and you are likely to try goulash and red cabbage for dinner. And while you might think that Marco is too old to climb, on my first visit to the Lodge, he was joining a group from the lodge to summit yet again.
And the last reason is that this place is magical. Without ever leaving the lodge grounds, it is possible to hike to high mountain ridges and gain views of the surrounding region, to walk deep into the valley and flush deer from hidden spots, find the male Star of Chimborazo hummingbird in his feeding grounds, or just enjoy the views. I love that I can sit on the back porch and enjoy the antics of the llamingos, a local word that describes the blending of alpacas and llamas in a single herd, and watch the female Star of Chimborazo hummingbird flit back and forth from the small creek ravine to the feeders hanging from the lodge eaves. I also love the European touches that are so readily blended with Ecuadorian hospitality. The staff are local Ecuadorians with a love for their region and a knowledge of the land that can only be found by people born and raised there.
A Couple of Things You Might Not Expect
The downsides of staying here are minimal but should be mentioned.
If you don’t arrive in your own vehicle, you will need to arrange for a driver to go anywhere else. This location is remote.
You will need to arrange for lunches as they are not included in your stay. We have never found ourselves at the lodge at lunchtime because we are more likely to be on a hiking trail. The lodge staff can arrange a box lunch if you need one.
Bring plenty of bottled water or expect to refill your own bottles with boiled water from the kitchen.
For those who have trouble sleeping at altitude, the high winds that scour away evening clouds can make it a little more difficult to sleep through the night as they rattle the roof overhead. You might want to bring a set of ear plugs if you are easily awoken by noise.
Bring plenty of layers. It can get cold. And if it rains, it can be cold and damp. While there are space heaters for the rooms, Ecuadorian lodges do not have climate control thermostats.
Information For Your Trip
This is a high altitude trip. Please bring plenty of bottled water, stay hydrated, and make sure to carry emergency equipment in your vehicle.
- Direction by Car, use WAZE and look for Lodge Estrella de Chimborazo, Chimborazo, Ecuador or Chimborazo Lodge, Provincia de Chimborazo, Ecuador