This is the capital of the Cotopaxi province and was built largely from the local light grey pumice and the colonial character of the town has been well preserved. It lays at an altitude of 2800m and Cotopaxi volcano is 29km away. Latacunga is a thoroughly authentic highland town.
We stayed in the Estambul hotel. We had a walk around town and saw the central plaza, Parque Vicente Leon, which is a colourful garden. We also visited the Mercado Plaza el Salto which had a lovely local market (no tourists !!). Monica could have walked around this for hours on end !!
We were told that Corpus Christi was happening the next day (28th May) at Pujili. This town is famous for it`s celebrations which happen once a year. We took the bus and had a look around a market before taking our seats in a stand beside a cordoned off street, where the parades were happening. There were maybe 100 guards lining the streets as the parade started. The parade consisted of different schools and organisations which had there own little show. It was very colourful with lots of different masks, costumes and dances. They also seemed to enjoy walking on stilts as this seemed to be part of most of the parades. We sat and watched for 5hrs and it was just coming to an end as we climbed down from the stands. While the parades were going on there were many street sellers trying to sell food, drink, bubble blowers, and all manner of local toys !
There were loads of food stalls selling pork crackling and lots of meat. We both tried the crackling which was very good !
We got up early for our Cotopaxi tour and met our guide outside the agency. There were two others on the tour, Simon (from Ireland) and Vanessa (from Australia).
Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world (although there has not been an eruption for over 100 years). It stands at 5897m with a snow capped cone. It is possible to climb in one day from the refugio Josè Ribas at 4800m. The Volcano (as well as the andes) were formed due to the meeting of two major teutonic plates. The one going eastward is more dense and so has pushed the one moving westward, upwards causing the andes mountain range and several Volcanoes in the area.
The tour took us to a grand hotel (Simon Bolivar stayed here) first where we had a quick look around. We then carried on into the national park to the museum where there was an explanation about the Volcano and the animals in the national park (including a stuffed young condor !!!). We were then taken to the Lake of Limpio Pungo at 3850m where we had a walk to acclimatize !!
After this it was on up to the car park (at 4600m) where we had a good view of the Volcano (it had been cloudy and rainy lower down). We walked the last two hundred metres up to the refugio. We kept on getting out of breath quickly because of the altitude and our hearts were going at a fair rate by the time we got there. We had some lunch to relax a bit, before heading to a glacier which was at about 5000m. It was impressive to see the glacier stretch up to the top of the volcano, and to also be standing at this height !!!
We then had the walk down (which was a bit easier) before getting back into the 4x4 to take us back to Latacunga.