Walking up Mount Cotopaxi

We left for Cotopaxi at 8.30am. Our guide was called Paul. We got to the park boundary around 10am after a drive through lovely and varied countryside. Once within the park boundary we drove along a very rough path which shook us about a lot. We got to the next stop at around 1030am where one of the guys bought and alpaca hat, and we all consequently made a pact to buy one at Otavalo. Otavalo is a town with a large market we would be visiting later in the trip. The park was mostly pine and eucalyptus on the lower slopes where they were harvested. They did not grow higher up due to the altitude. We next stopped at the museum around 11am, where there was even a stuffed condor.  Andean condors really are large! Unfortunately, the loos didn’t flush, there was no loo roll and the water for the sinks didn’t work.

Andean condor. Image not my own.

Then we started the real ascent! On the way we saw some people mountain biking and real cowboys! We visited a lake called Limpiopungo. Here the surface was like the moon and covered with low growing lichen and plats. There were no more trees, but gulls and ruddy ducks. No condor yet though! Here was the first place we got out and felt a bit breathless. One of the guys wasn’t feeling great so he stayed in the bus while we walked around the lake looking at the Paramo fauna and flora. Cotopaxi only revealed itself here, as before it was covered in cloud.

Limpiopungo with Cotopaxi in the background. Image not my own.

Once we had walked around the lake a bit we returned to the bus and were driven up to the car park. The road was really twisty and was made of volcanic ash. It was also really steep and here we got our first look of the Refugio, a yellow coloured building, higher up volcano. When we got to the car park we all got out apart from two who weren’t feeling that well. We left at 12:55pm to start walking up. We started off slowly, our teacher excited about visiting his first equatorial glacier, as glaciers are his thing! However, half way up he had to stop along with a couple of the girls as they didn’t feel well. It is always best to stop when feeling the symptoms of altitude sickness. The rest of us finally got to the top at about 2pm, having passed a random pile of wood on the way up which must have come from a long way away. We stayed for a few minutes and had photos taken with the sign that said ‘You are at 4800m’, as well as a group photo. It had taken just over an hour to walk 300m, showing how hard it is to walk on pumice and how slow you have to walk at high altitude. We had managed to walk up an active volcano!

The refugio. Image not my own.

We headed back down to the bus and to a restaurant where we had a meal at 3:40pm. It was a full three course meal! We pretended to drive off in the bus leaving one of the girls behind, who started running to catch us up! Then we drove down to exit the park, being shaken again. We saw a large hawk, but still no condor!

The well disguised restaurant. Image not my own.

Once out the park Paul told us the Lydia bulls or Spanish fighting bulls, toros de lidia in Spanish, for the bull fights were kept here so you shouldn’t walk on your own. They need minimum contact with people so they don’t become wise and hill the matador. Back in Quito we had a meal that I could only just eat. This day had tired us out so we went to bed about 9:45pm.


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