Published: March 1st 2007February 25th 2007
Cotopaxi-in the window of light
Back across the equator from Otavalo and deep deep deep into the southern hemisphere (about 80 klms) to Latacunga (avoiding one more robbery attempt enroute). Arriving in Latacunga on a Sunday afternoon and one adjective springs to mind - DEAD. The town isn´t the most attractive in Latin America, plus you could fire off an AK47 in all directions on a Sunday arvo and not cause any human damage. So why come here? Latacunga is strategically central for a number of excursions.
We were hitched up with 2 very eccentric retired English ladies for a hike up to a refuge at 5000 mtrs which acts as a base for assaults on the summit on Cotopaxi (a perfectly conical snow clad volcano) at 6000 mtrs. Look up ´anal´in your Oxford and there are these 2 women.
´Is this 1sq cm rock volcanic, because it looks like pumice blended with basalt´
´Is this little yellow flower native to Ecuador?´ - LADY, back home we call them wet-the-beds, it´s a damn weed.
The last 500 vertical metres were an endurance test. Visibility down as low as 20mtrs, sleet, snow and a howling wind, up through volcanic ash, rocks, ice and snow.
Just 100 more steps, Yaa
On reaching the refuge, we pulled out our list of must do things before we die, and drew a big red line through Everest. Even at 6000 metres the summit of Cotopaxi involves leaving the refuge at 1am for a 7 hour slog to the top. Coming down from the refuge, however, was fun. What took 1 hour to go up, was a ten minute joy ride back down, sliding on snow and ploughing through volcanic ash. Let gravity be thy co-pilot.
The next couple of days were spent gazing into the water filled volcanic crater of Quilatoa and then an extremely scenic 4 hour trek to the village of Chugchilan. Horse riding was also on the agenda to a cloud forest. The micro climates are incredible. From sun (at last some blue sky) and wind, 3 lineal klms later and you´re plunging on horse back into something akin to an Amazonian rain forest. I´ve also developed a new found respect for jockeys. How do you make a horse giddyup or whoa when that horse doesn´t wanna giddyup of whoa? We shared these couple of days with a fantastic Italian couple and Luigi in particular had some
Watch that 1st step.
trouble with his sturdy mount (unlike Penny´s 20 year old Pinto), careering off into the wild blue yonder pleading with the beast in italian to stop. I guess these horses just don´t understand English or Italian.
3. Saquisili (pronounced Sucky Silly - and yes I know there are an array of corny puns available on that one - but where´s the challenge).
It is home to another lively indiginous market, something similar to Otavalo but much more on the rustic side i.e less catering for the tourist $. Lots of fun, but while I like to think I´ll have a crack at most things the culinary world has to offer, I´m still struggling with the idea of guinea pig stew for breakfast.
Gary and Penny
There are more photos below