Half the fun of Guaranda is getting there. The 99km ‘highway’ from Ambato reaches altitudes over 4000m and passes within 5km of the glacier on Volcán Chimborazo (6263m). From here, the mountain almost looks easy to climb. The capital of Bolívar province, Guaranda is small and uneventful city – but it is a city, with accompanying traffic (auto and pedestrian). It sits amid seven steep hills that have prompted the moniker ‘the Rome of the Andes’ – but it certainly didn’t get this nickname for its cultural offerings. The Wednesday and Saturday markets in the Plaza 15 de Mayo are worth checking out, as are the Carnaval celebrations in February, with water fights, dances, parades and a little liquor with local herbs called ‘Pájaro Azul’ (Blue Bird).