In all of our world travels, we have not had a day like today. Our long day was spent exploring Cotopaxi National Park. Mighty Cotopaxi, at 19,342 feet, is the second highest active volcano in the world. As such, climbing on the glacier to the top is forbidden. However, we were able to get to about 14,000 feet, close to the base of the ice. Doing so, however, was an ordeal, well worth the energy expended. The drive out of Quito was great with views of the Andes everywhere. It was a bright and clear day. As we began to climb higher towards Cotopaxi, we traversed changing ecological climates. First, were the eucalyptus trees; then, the pine with various pampas grasses; then, succulents and desert-like plants with no trees; then, wind-swept plains with yellow, then purple, and then orange flowers; and finally, nothing but volcanic landscape. The conical snow-covered peak of Cotopaxi was in clear view, a blessing not always available to visitors. As our day tour bus ascended higher, many cars were stalled out and most were turning around. The road consisted of hairpin turns on volcanic sand and rock with gulleys and ruts everywhere. We were told to hold onto our seats or we could be shaken out. Our guide mused that we were receiving a “Cotopaxi massage!” Once we arrived at the final stop up the volcano, we were given the opportunity to climb another 500 feet higher to a look-out point, the Jose Rivas Shelter.
Kathy and I were the seniors on this day tour; most were in their 20’s and 30’s, but we were game. We donned our sock hats and sun glasses, jackets and gloves. But when we stepped out of the bus, the wind was so strong we were almost blown over. Our tour guide said the gusts reached 60 mph. However, never to say never, we trudged upward. The wind was picking up volcanic sand and pebbles and hurling them into our faces. Some people were knocked down. About 1/5 of the way up, we said, “Done!” Going back was harder than going up, since we could not lean into the wind, so small sideways step by step we went down. Some of the younguns eventually came back as well. Once back in the bus, we realized how out of breath we were. Sand was caked to our faces and grit was in our mouths, but we were out of the wind. Yet, mighty Cotopaxi remained in clear view! It is an experience we will never forget!
On this day, we were able to look down the Avenue of the Volcanoes and see four volcanoes in clear view. Our guide said this is almost never to occur. As we stopped on the way down at Limpiopungo Lagoon, a clear mountain lake, we had clear views of the majesty of raw beauty all around us.
As we left, we saw herds of wild horses and, amazingly, a large mountain fox, Zorro, trotted close to our bus. As foxes are quite reclusive, our guide declared, “We had a perfect day.” I agreed. Descending further, we entered a mountain climbers’ lodging establishment where we were treated to a delicious mountain trout dinner.
After almost ten hours of exploring, we arrived back at our hotel, content that we are still adventurous and enjoying the adventure, while also eager to relax and clean off the dirt. WEG