cotopaxi and quilotoa

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October 7th 2009
Published: October 7th 2009
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So climbing halfway up amountain probably isnt the best idea if youre vomitting..but I was determined! It was a very squashed bus journey, full of people to talk to..mostly I ended up chatting to a british airways pilot, but I also met an economic advisor to the uk government...good time to take a career break. Mostly a young traveller vibe.

With a break to stop off at the hosteria, the journey to the park takes about three hours..its towards the same mountains we visited for the hot springs, so again the scenery is beautiul. That psart of the pan america passes through what they call the avenue of volvcanoes, so everywhere one looks there is a mountain covered in snow,

The entrance to cotopaxi park is a village, again with pigs on leads and all the animals tethered on ropes..including a very inquisitive alpaca..Its only when one ges very close one can appreciate the difference in their faces. Alpacas have the edge when it comes to their coat but llamas win on facial beauty. On a side not, i also realised that it was guanacos I saw on Chimborazo..another camelid species which I remember from the plains of Argentina.

Its a windy way up to the gate of the bit you pay for..where we all dutifully bought alpaca gloves for the downhill biking bit to come,

Then its another half an hour to a museum. Some interesting facts..cotopaxi is due to erupt any minute..when it does, if it explodes it would have the force of several atomic bombs and wipe oiut quito..if it erupts it will still wipe out the south of quito and latacunga.! And given quito is three hours drive from the base, thats still pretty powerful.

So the museum..fulll of dusty mangy stuffed animals and some information boards. Unfortunately I was too busy being sick to actually go in!

the drive coontinues through the park you passs cotopaxi on the left..its a perfect picture book cone of a volcano with a glacier on top..which is rare on the equator.. Very beautiful..

Finally the carpark is reached and the climb of 500 m begins to the refuge.. Of course, It was nothing like as tough as Chimborazo, but still the wind and the dust is a shock when you get out of the vehicle.
Reaching the refuge i a relief but we didnt stop there. It was another 200m vertical height, about half an hour trail to the start of the glacier at 5000 m. By this time I was really struggling, having not eaten anything proper since the thursday, but I was determined to make it! The glacier more impressive than it looked from below. A wall of ice hanging with icicles..

Back down to the refuge and it was time for lunch, The one thing \i really like about Ecuadorian food is the soup...and just what I needed being ill.
We took a different route down the mountain..A more direct steep one, and the volcanic ash is at least mid calf depth, and walking isnt psossible, it has to be a sliding job...

Back in the car park it was time for the brief about bike safety...if you dont feel steady, go slower and if youre experienceed go faster! At first it was difficult as the ash slides around under you , but I soon got thee hang of it.

It was about 16 km in total. all but the last two downhill and the last two were flat, so from that point of view, easy, but its really tough on ones hands because the grips are textured with hard prominences and all ones weight is on ones hands for the duration of the downhill...and thee wind has made the road into little ripples so it vibrates up through the bike a lot!

Biking down the side of a volcanoe isnt something one does everyday so it felt pretty exciting, and of course the view, even if it was a bit grey {all the ash"} was good..not beautiful, but different and interesting.

Our destination on the bikes was a lagoon cradled in small mounatains and with the peak of cotopaxi rising above it. IT had a really magical quiet feel..It was also freezing cold!!

Home to the hostel for chocolate cake and hot drinks. The hosteria itself was a treat. A big old farm house with dogs and horses and pigs cows and chickens. I was in a dorm for four in what must have been an out building. There was even a hot tub jacuzzi a disco in a shed and a restaurant. Unfortunately although it was very sociable etc the dinner at the restaurant didnt make my sickness fact the oppposite, so I ended up going to bed which was a shame.

The Sunday was the visit to Quilotoa..Much smaller group, just 5 of us, an American guy, whose turn it was to be ill..I was feeling a lot better by this time but he had to keep stopping the car to get out...
A nice German girl who will be in the Galapagos a week after I arrive on the same island and a dutch couple.
On the way through latacunga we were lucky enought o see the beginnings of the mama negra festival..a big fiesta once a year, with everone dressing up in splendid costumes and getting very drunk early in the morning it seemed!

Then onto sasiquilli where there was a proper market taking pkace. It was interesting as it was a proper market for the people,, whe were the only tourists and got some funny looks. Mostly vast quantities of fruit and wonder how it can possibly all be sold, as every stall is selling the same things more or less. Then there was a small clothes area, where I finallyt got a fuschia scarf.... There is a story behind the handicrafts market in quito with mum i saw a fuschia poncho and a really wanted it but didn t have any money and assumed it would be there when I got back..of course it wasnt and there was only one and i mourned its loss...
In ecuador each village has a different coloured poncho or large scarf...and it happened to be fuschia in sasiquilli..its not really a poncho, although it would be on a small indiginous lady but its a big scarf and its the real deal rather than tourist goods, and much cheaper for that!

lots of interesting things to see..impossily old looking ladies iwth huge bundles on their back. A group of ladies who seem to have adoped highlighter coloured flourescent yellow ponchos. the unmelting icecream which is all over ecuador but I cant bring myself to comes on a tray, half pink half white with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on it, and cones upside down on it...and it doesnt melt at all.....hmmm,,

little babies dressed as miniature versions of their parents whith little poncho s and felt hats.
old men leaning against railings and watching the women shop..

After the market it was a driv up up up into the highlands,,,again, so so interesting..reminded me of my journeys through boliva and peru in the highlands. here you cans ee why they have brightly coloured cans ee the dots of bright red and pink and blue against the yellow green of the hills as they tend to their animals...good protection against getting lost.
It is a windswept inhospitable high grassland, dotted with houses, which are made by digging a hole in the ground and then building a triangualr shaped structure over that using would and covering that with grass to make a roof..I imagine they are pitch dark but warm.

Every so often theres a llama orr alpaca grazing by the road, or little buches of wooly sheep. Its amzing to think how different these peoples lives are from mine, or even from someone living in a rich part of quito..
They jut carve an existence in a very difficult territory, with maybe 5 animals each and a little plot of land, which at 4000 plus metres must be hard to cultivate.

As one gets closer to quilotoa *its a three hour drive along a windy road with sheer drops and marked with crosses for the deaths that have ooccured here..the houses become more afflluent..blocks of concrete instead of the grass constructions. We passe d through a village having a celebration..with a stage with trumpet playing and lots of bright ponchos and alcohol.

About half an hour from quilotoa a big split in the ground, or crevasse with cracks runing through it opens up. apparently it was caused by volcanic activity from the quilotoa crater. We met a little girl here. Very solemnly she psoed for our pictures. Very grubby in her little felt hat and poncho. She was 8 years old but was about the size of a four year old.

Quilotoa itself comes from nowhere. We parked our car by two hostels and a little arts market. The wind was bitterly cold..and cut through our clothing like on cotopaxi. It just looks like barren land. Then a 100m walk up a little hill and we were loooking down on an absolutely magnificent lake. Again, hard to describe.. but its probably a couple of k long, ovoid shape, surrounded by an irregular crater wall...its names means princesses teeth. The water is what is so beautiful, truquoise blues and greens really looks impossible, as if someone has put food dye in the water and swirled it around. Its the kkind of sight that you keep looking at agin and aggain just to verify you are seeing it correctly.

Its a 500 m vertical drop to the lakemalong a windy steep track. The differenc in temp in the cratr as compared to outside is extreme. Outside its freezing with three jumpers, inside, a tshirt is enough.

The lake and crater was formed 2000 years ago when a volcano there eploded, so the top of the mountain is gone, froming this ring around the lake. However it is still active and there are bubbles etc in the lake ansd the water is sulphury.

Again the soil is ashy, like walking thorough a fire pit.

Reaching the beach there was time to say heelo to all the mules and horses waiting to take us backup the hill. I was worried they were going to be skinny and badly cared for and I wouldnt want to ride one, but each villager only has one or two horses so they take good care of them and my guide was saying that there are about 50 horses so each persons turn to earn 5 dollar taking a tourist up comes maximum once every one and a half two weeks.
The ponies are very well behaved They have no bridles and just a saddle cloth and respond to their owners voice, moving on up this steep path. Even though they appeared healthy and weell fed, it was stil a very arduous way up, and I felt a little guilty for not getting off mine!

We had a late lunch in the kitchen of one of the hostels..the standard soup followed by chicken and rice..watched by a little girl wrapped up by an unlit stove., again dressed as a miniture copy of the mother, wiht thick woolen socks, velvet skirt ponch, hat and little shoe like old ladies in britain wear with a little square heel.

Then it was toime to repeat the long journey back..passing villagers leading their llamas home! quick break for more chocolate cake and hot chocolate and then back to quito to start another week..


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