Kindy Does South America 2008/2009 travel blog

Inside Cotopaxi National Park at Laguna Limpiopungo, very high up!

Cotopaxi Volcano, the closest part of earth to the sun


Parking lot at Cotopaxi, at 4500 m above sea level

Hiking up the volcano to the refuge at 4800 m - and...

Biking down Cotopaxi

My trusty bike taking a break while I enjoy the views

Traveling to Quilotoa, the Illinizas twin volcanos in the background

The straw hut where the indigenous family we met lived

The wonderful indigenous family that invited us into their home

The twin 2 year old girls- loved the toys and spoke Quichua

The children and their dog after receiving their presents

The town of Zumbahua is on the other side of the peak

Me on top of the Quilotoa Crater Laguna


The muddy, narrow trail leading down and back up from the laguna

The weekly Saturday market in Zumbahua

Zumbahua market and church

Locals catching a lift back home from the market, Zumbahua

Indigenous women bring back items from the market with the help of...

So since my core group of USFQ friends decided to be cool and have class field trips this weekend (aka Papallacta), I decided not to waste a weekend sleeping in my apartment and to find something else to do- biking and hiking! Cuz I am so athletic... (er not).. but it was the funnest thing I have done thus far in Ecuador!

I booked a 2 day trip with Aries Bike Company - guide, transport, all included, mountain biking and hiking in the Cotopaxi-Quilotoa region which can be difficult to get to transport wise, especially when you dont have a lot of time!

My guide Lincoln picked me up a little after 7:30 am (and peeps, note that I was out until 2 am the night before rocking it up Quito-farra styles at Varadero, a small little intimate Cuban bar with live music = awesome!)and there I met the other random dude doing the trip with me, Eric, this guy from France. he was pretty relieved to find out that I spoke french. We headed off through busy Quito traffic and started to climb further upwards towards Cotopaxi, about 1.5 hours away.

Arriving in the national park, it was still somewhat cloudy but driving a little further, the clouds began to move and revealed the awesome site of Cotopaxi- going up to 5800 m. Crazy! People climb that shit! The whole thing, at night, on the snow, with clamp-ons and everything. Nuts-bar! Anyway, we got amazing pics and continued our ascent up to the parking lot at 4500 m. This is the highest point I reached in Bolivia. And of course, being a crazy person, I was game to climb up to the refuge at 4800 m. Gotta live life ya know! Well I had my altitude pill and stuff some of my now-illegal, smuggled coca leaves into my mouth and eased my way up the volcanic sand (read: going directly into my socks and shoes) little by little. I concentrated on my breathing and the steps ahead but I was feeling uber dizzy- too high to breathe properly! But I made it, and not too far behind Mr. French Fitness man... Lincoln was surprised I could do it without dying. We enjoyed the views and I had some hot chocolate at the refuge. The bathrooms were locked so I enjoyed an outdoor pee, sans poncho to cover me up, as the hail and frozen rain began to fall. On the upside, you dry really quick if you know what I mean. TMI?

So we headed back down to avoid the wetness and start our 3.5 hour biking trek without rain... it was soooo fun to jump and fly down - the volcanic sand lets you slip and slide down really fast and well, if you fall, its a soft landing. I was loving it! We got down in no time, suited up our bikes and headed down. OUCH! My hands were aching in no time, gripping the breaks on the super bumping, crevice-filled, direct roads that twisted and turned down the first part of the trek. Alls while avoiding other vehicles. I am more cautious so I was breaking a lot.. but enjoying my ipod music- hip hop styles. Lincoln was following metres behind in case we needed anything. But it was so freeing and fantastic! Loving it. Soon enough, it started to rain, a lot and I donned my pink poncho alls while embracing the rain, for the first time ever! The rain was thrashing down and mud was spilling all over me but I was loving it- and at least not cold. We arrived to a turn off and said goodbye to Lincoln until we joined back up on the road. A relatively flat stretch off road over lots of rocks. Haha, and guess what? I got a flat. I didnt realize at first but was huffing and puffing just to get the bike to go and feeling really unfit, until Eric pointed out that my front tire was completely out of air. I continued huffing and puffing while Eric raced ahead to go get Lincoln to come get me. I was going slow as ass down the hill and Lincoln came, took my bike and put me on the spare and I rode it down to the Cotopaxi museum where we had a nice lunch. Then we were off for the rest of the bike. No more rain, and it was getting sunny! Ther ewere 2 big hills on the way and I just couldnt make it so I walked them but otherwise the downhill stuff was smoother and less steep than before and I felt so great and full fo adrenaline.

Before we knew it we were back at the Park Entrance and in my ridiculous helmet and dirty tight blue pants and all-together hideous ensemble, some Ecuadorian teens got out of their car and snapped pics of me. I felt like a zoo animal! Turns out they were taking pics for some photography contest. Sorry guys, I dont think I will be a winner.

Next we continued our drive towards Latacunga, the capital city of the Cotopaxi province from where we drove through Pujili and up into the mountains again to go to our hostal on the edge of the Quilotoa crater. Views were fantastic and we stopped as the clouds cleared to reveal beautiful sites of Cotopaxi and the twin Illinizas volcanoes in the distance. Shortly after that, we stopped on the road with an indigenous family waving at us. They know Lincoln and will let tourists come visit their home for a few dollars. There were beautiful little kids welcoming us up to their house, a one room hut made out of straw. We went up and shook hands with the eldest son and the mother and then all the little kids wanted to shake our hands too, Antonio was the leader, the 13 year old boy and then the 8 and 7 year old girls and then the 2 year-old twins, extending out their tiny, dirt-filled hands to shake with us. We met the whole family and toured inside the hut. It was freezing but they have no electricity, no heat, no potable water (meaning in the dry season, its very hard for them to get water), no sewage, nothing. These people are living in very difficult conditions (and makes me wanna show this reality to my USFQ compatriots who insist that Ecuador does not have "real" poverty.. um, hello????? get out of your rich USFQ bubble people!! These are the same people who hate Correa of course who drafted a brilliant constitution and is doing tons of public works projects to assist communities in need, constructing schools etc) Anyway, despite this, all the kids were smiling and happy to see us. Luckily Eric had brought a little bag full of goodies- little toys and candies for the kids. We distributed it to all of the children and they were ecstatic. He even gave the pink bag to the mom. Great people! After that we were off, passing Zumbahua, the town that has a big Saturday market that we would visit the next day; and the great canyon on the road to Quilotoa.

By 7 we arrived at our quaint hostal, run by the Latacunga family- the wife runs the hostal and the husband, Don Humberto, is a famous painter (in Quilotoa, they paint on lamb skin and have a particular technique - a lot of paintings depicting the local countryside, with magical condors and the indigenous people who in the area are known for their traditional hats, men and women). We had a 2 story cabin with a nice bathroom (no hot water of course so no shower for me) but luckily had a wood-fire stove. We had a hearty meal in the dining room next to that hot stove and chatted with some other travelers who were doing the Quilotoa loop, visiting communities in the area, on foot.

After dinner, I wasted no time. I was exhausted and hopped into my bed beside the wood-fire stove and had a lovely sleep.

The next day, we hiked down and back up (ugh) the beautiful Quilotoa crater enjoying the views and then headed to Zumbahua to see the local Saturday market. Full of colours and life, very interesting, though I was not fond of the live animal slaughters going on right at the market in front of my eyes. Yikes. We then drove along to the peak overlooking Pujili, had lunch and then biked all the way down- no hills this time- and luckily no dogs bit us. We were exhausted by the end but it was a fabulous trip. Aries Biking Company rocks and our tour guide Lincoln was super good too! Do it!

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