This extremely geographically packed country is divided in 3 parts: the Coast (La Costa), the Andes (La Sierra) and the Amazonia (El Oriente).
There are 13 000 000 of inhabitants: 60% are “mestizos” (mix between spanish settlers, indigenous people or afros), 30% are indigenous (the original people from Ecuador) and 3% are afros (the descendants of slaves) mostly on the Coast.
There are 24 provinces, each having its own cantons, its own parishes, and its own communities. One of these provinces is the Chimborazo province.
The capital is Riobamba. The province contains Chimborazo (6 310 m), Ecuador’s highest mountain and is divided into 10 cantons: Alausi, Chambo, Chunchi, Colta, Cumandá, Guamote, Guano, Pallatanga, Penipe, Riobamba. In the map below, Chimborazo is highlighted in red.
Seriously, Ecuador is stunningly beautiful. On weekends, you may find time to travel with friends to other towns. If you live in a rural canton, you may venture into Riobamba to get a taste of (small) city life. From there, Baños, a popular spa town, is about an hour away. The 2011 Cultural Capital of Latin America, Quito, is 3 hours away. Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city that is known for its beauty, is about a 5 hour bus ride away from Riobamba. If you have a long weekend, you may wish to travel to the Coastal region or the Amazon region. Maybe you will even have enough time to visit the Galapagos. Bus transit in Ecuador is a great way to go, with prices as low as $1/hour. But, head’s up, the driving here (both in buses and in cars) may make your life flash before your eyes… You will also be able to stay in inexpensive hostels ($5-30/night), making traveling relatively inexpensive.
There are also many small towns in the Chimborazo province with their own charm and culture. Festivals and parades are not uncommon, so you can have fun getting a taste of some very local entertainment. (The Chimborazo province is not very touristy, especially in the smaller cantons). Guamote, the canton where this project began and a canton we focus on especially for this reason, has a fantastic market every Thursday that you may want to check out. There are, of course, other markets in Riobamba and Ambato. There, you will be able to find food, livestock, colorful traditional clothes, hair wraps, ponchos, and other handicrafts. If you’re looking for a more modern market, Riobamba and Ambato have malls complete with nice cinemas.
There will most likely be other volunteers here while you are here, so you can meet with them. Also, try to get involved in the community you live in and make local friends. The more you attend community events and cultural festivals, the more you will feel a part of the community.