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ROUTE ambato baÑos

This road takes you up out of the central Andean where Ambato is situated and then descends down the Pastaza valley to the town of Baños. On the way you have fantastic views of the Tungurahua volcano and the chance to see some weaving in Salasaca.

Why would you possibly want to leave Ambato? Well, once you’ve exhausted its charms the bus station is north of the centre. If you’re driving you need to head east, probably up on the road which climbs a steep hill, leads you past the football stadium, then through an industrial area and eventually out of the city and onwards to Baños. If in doubt wind down your window and shout Baños – you’ll get a hand signal.

Ambato now has half a ring road to the east so if you’re coming from the south (Riobamba) or the north (Quito, Latacunga) you don’t have to enter the city at all to get to Baños. Simply watch out for the sign indicating the turn off and coast along an almost traffic-free dual carriageway (especially dramatic if you’re coming from the north – the road descends down past cliffs into a valley and then climbs out again). You’ll eventually come to a roundabout where a sign directs you east to Baños.

The province of Tungurahua has some of the clearest signage in Ecuador – at every turn-off a green and red sign over the road proclaims the destinations and distances. There are many roads which all connect up with each other, despite the tortuous slopes. You can turn off at various points and head down to Patate, Píllaro or El Triunfo.

The main road east leads through Salasaca, Pelileo and then down to Baños. However as of November 2009 it was being resurfaced through Salasaca and Pelileo. There are diversions along quieter but well-paved roads –just follow the signs. If you are in a car with low clearance make sure you follow the “liviano” sign, not “buses y pesados”. Don’t worry too much about Salasaca (a weaving centre) or Pelileo (jean manufacturing centre of Ecuador) because you’re not missing much.

When you rejoin the main road just outside Pelileo you have about 20km of descent left to reach Baños. The views are spectacular. A wide valley is open on your left and Tungurahua looms up ahead, its steep slopes strewn with debris thrown up by the volcano over the last five years. If you are on a bus and it’s sunny make an excuse to go up to speak to the driver to get the full panorama through the windscreen. The road then dives into the narrowing valley as the forbidding heights of the Llanganates rise up on the left.

The road down to Baños is well-paved and there are not too many blind corners. Nevertheless watch out for careering buses as always. At Las Juntas the Patate and Chimbo rivers meet to form the Río Pastaza. You cross a bridge and ascend the other side, passing the turn-off to Penipe and Riobamba (this road has been closed due to volcanic activity).


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