|The day began with my two new Canadian friends at 7 am on a bus to a town called Latacunga. After a couple of hours I realized that we had passed a sign that said ´Quito 9km´. Yes, I realized we passed it and ended up having to take that bus an extra hour and a half to Quito. Now Quito is a city of over 2 million people and traffic is a mess as is. But as of a week and a half ago had become even more trying due to a giant sinkhole that had occurred along a main arterial which has caused several diversions of traffic throughout the city. Needless to say, after sitting in traffic for what felt like forever, we arrived at the bus station and caught another bus back to Latacunga. It was getting later and the weather turned to rain. We weren´t sure what was going to conspire upon reaching Latacunga when a 15 year old Ecuadorian girl sitting next to me on the bus offered her assistance.
Once off the bus we followed her accross town to her grandparents store. The family from then on decided to take the three of us under their wing. The girls mother called her cousin and arranged for him to be our personal guide for the remainder of the day at a much reduced price. While waiting for the cousin to arrive, we were offered food and good conversation. Once the cousin arrived, they brought food and Gatorade for us and we were on our way to Cotapaxi.
The drive was about another hour before we reached the parque. Our plan was to hike up to the final refuge, which is at 4800 meters. The last ascent (1100 additional meters) takes about 6 hours from the refuge and most people start at midnight so they can catch the sunrise. You also need ice climbing gear, which we were not ready for so we decided this would have to do.
The clouds cleared for a bit so we were able to get some views of the valley below and of the summit. Fortunatly none of us got altitude sickness, but I felt as though my ears were going to burst and my heart was going to pound out of my chest. At this point I was thankful for all of those spinning classes!
Cotapaxi is the second tallest point in Ecuador and is considered an active volcano, although it hasn´t had an eruption for over a hundred years. I have been told that Cotapaxi and Chimborazo (the highest point in Ecuador) are both closer to the sun than Mount Everest due to the equatorial bulge. Although I did not need any sunscreen, the clouds were too thick!
We made it back into Baños at 11pm, ready for a good nights rest!
Today I am planning on doing some more hiking around Baños today and then heading south to Cuenca tomorrow. Hope everyone is well!