Day 5 – March 16: Cotopaxi National Park - Banos
Banos Travel Blog› entry 6 of 26 › view all entries
HORSEBACK RIDING, PART 2
My son, who was not excited about horseback riding yesterday, decided that he absolutely had to go on another ride. Apparently, he was the only one who didn’t have a sore butt! So first thing in the morning, I found myself on a horse on a short loop around the hacienda with our guide, Roberto.
The highlight of the ride was cantering �" my son’s hat fell forward covering his face, so he was yelling, “I can’t see! I can’t see!” while trotting along. It was very funny, but Roberto was quick to get control of his hat and his horse again.
COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK
After another delicious breakfast, we joined a couple from the Netherlands and 2 local guides and headed to Cotopaxi National Park. It was about 20 minutes to the gate. We had to pay national park fees here: $10/adult and $5/child.
It was a longer, bumpier ride to the parking lot below the refuge on Cotopaxi (30-40 minutes). A few cars had bikes on top, and then people ride down them back down the mountain. It looks exhilarating!
It was about a 45 minute hike up to the refuge/hut (4800m / 15,750 feet). The trail is mostly straight up and on fairly loose sand. We hiked slowly, slowly, and with many breaks because of the altitude.
The refuge is fairly large with a few different cooking and eating areas on the main floor and bunk beds (some 3 high!) on the second floor. Bathrooms are outside in a separate building and very primitive (bring your own toilet paper).
Our guides made popcorn and tea to go with cheese, bread, chips, chocolate, and wafer cookies. There are also sodas and chips available for sale.
After our snack and a short rest, we continued up another 20 minutes to the glaciers for some great photos (almost 16,000 feet!). The weather was not kind to us on this portion as the clouds had moved in and brought strong wind and light rain, but then it cleared off for the decent.
Because of the soft sand, it is a much easier hike or run down the mountain, but boy, my shoes were filled with lots of sand, rocks, and fine dust that took days to become manageable.
After the hike, we drove to the Limpiopungo Lake. I can see that this would be very beautiful, but not so much for us on this cloudy day.
We switched cars and drivers and left the Dutch couple as we were heading down to Banos, and they were heading back to the Hacienda.
It was a 2 hour drive to Banos. I had planned to stop in Quisapincha to visit the leather market on the way, but in the end, we were all just too tired, and so we skipped it.
It was about 6:00pm when we arrived in Banos. After we checked in, we ate dinner and then had a nice walk around town.
The cathedral forms one side of the main square in town and the streets heading out from there are filled with restaurants and shops. It seems like every single building in town is a hotel, and every restaurant is Italian.
The cathedral is lit up at night by blue lights and looks spectacular. Lots of people and families were out and about, so we felt safe everywhere we walked in town. (Of course, we stayed in the main area of town, and we keep our money well hidden.)
Thanks to the owner of Hacienda El Porvenir, Jorge Perez, for an amazing visit to Cotopaxi!
Cotopaxi was very cold! Thicker long pants, long sleeve shirt, fleece layer, rain jacket, hat, and gloves. We did not pack gloves or hats, but you can buy them at the Cotopaxi gate (about $2 for gloves and $5 for hats). I wish I had! Also wear dark socks and hiking shoes �" they will get extremely dirty. My son was covered in dirt from head to toe.
Banos was warmer by comparison, but still long pants and a jacket for the evening.
We had plans to eat lunch at the Hacienda San Agustin de Callo en route to Banos, but none of us were hungry after Cotopaxi.
With our hotel room at the Sangay Spa Hotel, we got free drinks at one of the hotel restaurants, “El Chozon de la Molienda.” It was actually a very cute tropical-looking restaurant with an amazing wood-fire pizza oven. Around the bar are several wood swings, which were fun. The drinks were a local fruit and cinnamon juice with optional alcohol. Quite tasty either way.
I highly recommend the Hawaiian pizza and BBQ chicken wings. The tomato soup and pork plate were very passable.
There are signs all over Banos for a white and red ice cream on a stick. My son decided to give it a try but didn’t like it. There are a lot of better ice cream options.