Machachi Travel Blog› entry 3 of 8 › view all entries
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".
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.
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 aren´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.
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.
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.