Cotopaxi

Machachi Travel Blog

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PapaGayo....awesome place

Finally we were leaving Quito. As much as I liked it, we were in our comfort zone with our homestay and Spanish lessons and daily life had slipped into a routine. Preparing to leave felt like the start of our travels all over again. We were headed for Cotopaxi National Park and its centre piece, Volcan Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world.

Our first obstacle was the Quito bus station, "Terminal Terrestre". With our big packs we decided to get a taxi for the 15 minute ride to the station. Once there, the taxi driver dropped us off and pointed us to a corner we needed to stand on to get the bus we wanted. I always find these situations the most stressful when travelling - "which bus", "how much", "do our packs go on the roof, underneath or ride with us", people are shouting things all around "Otavalo Otavalo" "Cuenca Cuenca" "Banos Banos".

Hey Liv!!
Luckily a "very nice" little girl was on hand to help out and point us to our correct bus. She took us by the hand and led us on, where we were greeted with three big ecudorian guys (bigger than me, which, suprisingly enough, is quite rare here). They started trying to grab our bags and hurrying us to sit down, all the time shouting that our bags needed to go on the floor or in the overhead part. Huh, amateurs, thats what they were, fricken amateurs and the little girl is included in that as well. They try to create confusion for unaware tourists by hurrying and shouting, in doing so separate "us" from our gear and then its christmas time.The best way to lose your gear is to put it on the floor under your seat or in the overhead section, the aussie boys from the S.
Lovely day for a walk up a Volcano
G. lost their v. expensive video camera in the same way on the bus to Otavalo. Most of the time, these guys dont even work for the bus company, they just act like they do. So, the moral of the story, always hold onto your gear unless the bus driver or his assistant deals with it for you, and even then keep a damn good eye on it. Oh yeah, and little girls helping you around bus stations are not so "nice" after all.

Anyway, we were soon rumbling down south down the Panamericana (the highway running all the way from the US to the bottom of Argentina, broken only between Panama and Colombia. I am not really sure why this section is not included, probably something to do with the drug cartels!). To leave Quito, the bus travels through the southern suburbs of the city and, although we were aware of the poverty in Ecuador, for the first time we were able to see it on a mass scale.

Yep, beautiful day for a walk.
Quite a reality check from our "middle-class" homestay. After about 30 minutes the city is left behind and the country side becomes a mixture of green rolling hills and crops (primarily corn and potatoes) dotted all the way with half built (but fully functioning) concrete houses and small villages.

After an hour or so we hit our "get off" point, the small town of Machachi. Off we jumped (buses in Ecuador are good like that, there arenĀ“t really any such things as bus stops, you can get on and off anywhere you like), not really knowing the next step in getting to our accomodation - "Hosteria Papagayo". So, picture two Anglo saxans with blondish hair standing in the dirt, on the side of the panamericana with a lonely planet in hand debating ("arguing") what to do.

At the refuge hut on Cotopaxi, around 4800m. Used as the base for making the trip to the pinnacle
...quite a sight really. Luckily the locals were more than eager to come up and help us out. We jumped on another bus (mostly indigenous people who must have thought we were aliens) for another 10 minutes or so before the driver indicated that this was us. A short 500m hike and we were there...fortunately it was all worth it! Hosteria Papagayo was awesome! Owned and operated by a young Israeli guy, it is a stunningly converted old farmstead set off the beaten track and surrounded by beautiful gardens, animals and forests. With rooms starting from $6, it has a great restaurant, free internet, great couches, awesome music collection and Estoban (Cities of Gold anyone??) the manager is a legend. From the minute we walked through the doors, we felt so relaxed and right at home.
5000m....ooo yeah!
The peace and quite compared to the city was brilliant.

Papagayo was reason enough to visit the area but our main reason was to see Cotopaxi. We booked a mountain biking tour for the next day, which for $50pp was quite expensive compared to what we had so far experienced, but it turned out to be worth every cent. Anna and I were driven through Cotopaxi national park in a trusty old landcruiser and about halfway up Volcano Cotopaxi. It was a strange landscape, on the lower sections there were virtually no trees, lots of grass ,small shrubs and flowers. Large boulders and rocks were scattered everywhere from the last time it erupted. As you climb higher, the grass and shrubs disappear replaced by dark volcanic ash and the occasional molten lava stream which were dark red in colour.

I have obviously given Anna a head start on the race back down

From the parked car, we hiked up to a refuge where Sergio, our guide, put on a pretty decent spread for lunch. With the food barely settled we hiked even higher, up to the snow/ice level at 5000m. I am sure the views would have been amazing but again, the weather was not in our favour, and basically the clouds were dirty nasty and started spitting ice at us. So we hot footed it back to the car and swapped our packs for the bikes. It was an awesome ride down the volcano. Lasting about 2 hours the ride took us down the strange "moonscape" and into a nearby village which bordered the park. The clouds even parted for us so we were able to see far off peaks bathed in sunshine. We were also lucky enough to see a pair of Andean condors. Top day all round.

The next day we were up early and ready to move on. Next stop Latacunga and the Quilotoa Loop.

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PapaGayo....awesome place
PapaGayo....awesome place
Hey Liv!!
Hey Liv!!
Lovely day for a walk up a Volcano
Lovely day for a walk up a Volcano
Yep, beautiful day for a walk.
Yep, beautiful day for a walk.
At the refuge hut on Cotopaxi, aro…
At the refuge hut on Cotopaxi, ar…
5000m....ooo yeah!
5000m....ooo yeah!
I have obviously given Anna a head…
I have obviously given Anna a hea…
The happy bikers
The happy bikers
Machachi
photo by: huge