September 17th, 2006 – by: Lenny
I moved south on my own on Tuesday because unfortunately Tara was sick. Instead of going to meet her friends who i didn´t know I decided to head to Latacunga, near the Quilotoa circuit. It was another 2 hour journey and I arrived in a very small town by comparison to Quito. I got there in the late afternoon and ran round the travel agencies trying to get a one day tour to the Quilotoa Crater instead of doing the round trip on my own, but they were all leaving for Volcan Cotopaxi the following day so I reluctantly gave in and decided to do that instead. I wasn´t disappointed.
The trail up to the refuge
The hostel I was staying in had rooms around a courtyard and was basic but nice with decent showers, most important for a smelly traveller! The hostel markets itself as the oldest in town, the owners verify that - the woman who greeted me was getting on to be about 80! I meet a couple there called Kate and Peter, they were also doing a Cotopaxi tour the following day but with a different company, so although we did the same thing we travelled seperately. I should have gone with them, they had a better car, a Toyota Rav 4 instead of a battered old 4x4 like the one I was in, we ended up getting a puncture on the way back after thrashing it over the rocky roads! I was met by my young tour guide Christian and my companion on the tour was Carol, a 60 year old from Austrailia, she was lovely but mad as a hatter (its beginning to sound like I´m ageist, I´m not)
We raced the others to the National Park, although they won.
The Galciers at the top of the volcano
I was really disappointed because the weather meant that we couldn´t see anything for the first hour or so and I was beginning to think that we wouldn´t even see the Volcano. We left the museum which had a brief history of the Volcano and a load of stuffed animals, including a baby condor which was massive, and went to the nearby lake. At this point our guide made us get and walk a little way to acclimatise, more for Carol´s benefit than mine. As we did the clouds started to diappear and we began to get out first glimpse of the snow capped volcano. I can´t remember the heights of the top of my head but we then drove up to that parking area, along a very bumpy and steep road. I started to get a little worried about the altitude when the driver in front of us got out of his car and was sick before even starting the drive up.
Actually it was fine, we had a 300m walk up to the climbers refuge just below the glaciers and i was a bit breathless but thats all - probably just unfit. Luckily I was with Carol and we took the zig zag route at acclimatise, rather than the very steep and difficult direct route that most others took. Carol plodded on barely stopping, she was adamant that she was going to beat the bus load of others that arrived, to the top! I was glad that we took this route not only because it was slightly easier but we also got a better view of the glaciers as we got closer and had more time to stop and enjoy the view. ( I will try and get some pictures on this week) We had lunch at the refuge and then made our way back down the steep bit, I was really glad that I did the trip in the end.
I had dinner with the couple from the hostel (Peter and Kate) and then we all left the next day to head to Banos, I´m sure they´re following me, we´re actually staying in the same hostel again! Fortunately Tara was able to catch up and has been here for a few days too.
Christian my tour guide
There´s lots to do here, Canoeing, Horse riding, Jungle trips etc, as well as the thermal baths but we have just been chilling out and enjoying some time in the hammocks strewn round the garden of the hostel. Today we have visited a waterfall nearby and did a little walk, thats about 3 waterfalls I´ve seen now. I´ll be sick of them by the time I reach Iguazu Falls ! Some of the cafes here show films at night too, so we´ve just been hanging out. Tomorrow we are going to head south again but I hope I get to see a glimpse of the Volcano Tunguruhoa before I go. I have seen the lava flows and driven over them on the rebuilt road! I can´t imagine what it would have been like to have been here when it errupted in August. The town is surrounded by moutains but its a lot greener here than Quito and there is less pollution.
When we took the bus out to Rio Verde today, we were properly in the countryside for the first time.
Well I´ve probably missed out loads of stuff but its getting late and time for a beer. I´ll come back and see what rubbish I´ve written in a couple of days and add to it then.