Friday, April 12, 2013

Ojos del Volcan: Camping high above Baños, Ecuador

The view on Tungurahua from Ojos del Volcan

Here comes another overnight stop I would highly recommend. Baños offers all kind of tourist infrastructure, many hotels and hostals but high above town and right opposite of vulcan Tungurahua is a small very basic but super cool campground: Ojos del Volcan.

Once you are in Baños take the only street that is heading North to the bridge over the river Pastaza. This is also where you can through yourself off the bridge if you are the kind of person that has to do those kind of things. Bungee jumping that is. Should you still need a place to camp after that continue on up the hill. 

The road meandering up the mountain from Baños to Ojos del Volcan

This is a reasonably steep one lane cobblestone street, if your RV is really, really long you might need some time to work yourself through the switchbacks up the hill. You will climb significantly from Baños which is at about 1'800 meteres over sea level to over 2'500 meters at Ojos del Volcan. The road might appear small and without trafic but be prepare for downhill trafic, this road is not ending at Ojos del Volcan or at Las Antennas a little further up, it continues to Patate (rough, muddy & steep but possible with a 2WD high clearance vehicle (end of March 2013)) a beautiful drive once you're done camping at Ojos del Volcan. Eventually through Patate and some villages you will reach the Panamerican Highway again at San Miguel de Salcede.

The view.
If you are tent camping, hitchhike up the hill or take a Taxi which should not charge you more than USD 5.00 to go up there. Back down should be easy to hitch a ride or ask Rojelio to call a taxi for you. 

The camping area.
Rojelio is managing that place and will warmly welcome you once you hit the next switchback after the big green sign "Ojos del Volcan". The turn off into the small camping area is right in the switch back. It is a small long terrasse. There is no infrastructure but you can use the restroom and the cold only shower of the restaurant that Rojelio is running. Basic food and drinks are offered. At the weekend there is a little, really just a little more action and his wife comes up from Baños, then there are a couple of more things offered in the small restaurant. Rojelio speaks some English and will be very happy to practice it with you. 

The view.
The view to the Volcan Tungurahua is spectacular when the weather is good. I was fortunate and during my stay of a couple of days I could see erruptions at night, twice with lava spitting out of the crater. I have paid a second visit to Rojelio a couple of days ago but at the time the volcano has fallen asleep again. If you want to hike it Rojelio can instruct or guide you.

GPS Coordinates: S01°23.017'   W078°26.209' 

Price for vehicle camping with a small truck was USD 5.00/night (March 2013). Rojelio and his family are super nice and will probably invite you for a coffee, a fruit juice, a hot chocolate or even deliver a fresh egg from their chickens for your breakfast in the morning, so please do not negotiate the already low price further down. Even though the campround is basic I consider the value high. Currently there is no accomodation offered apart from the campground but if you have a mat & sleeping bag Rojelio might let you roll your bed out in the restaurant once the last guests have gone. It has a fire place and is nice and warm.

Give Rojelio, his wife Marcie and daughter Erica my regards when you make it up there to camp. Thank you.

When the weather's nice it is a beautiful camping experience high above Baños.
Living at the edge: During my first visit parts of the people living on the West slope of the Volcano were evacuated.

If you're lucky Bob Marley will pay you a visit.
The road back down into the valley to Baños.


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