21st – 27th October
We were up, breakfasted and ready pretty early on Tuesday in order to take a tour of Cotopaxi national park and climb up to the base camp of the still-active volcano that once destroyed the city of Latacunga. Our guide, Marciel, took us to an interpretation centre inside the park and told us about the flora and fauna of the area. We then walked by a lake to spot some birds in the rain and then made our way up the base of the volcano. There was a lot more snow than we had expected, and as a result got very cold feet due to our inadequate shoes, but we made it to the refuge along a zig-zagging path and had lunch before resting and then taking the more direct route down. Back in Latacunga, we rested, I worked and then we stuffed our faces with Mexican food along with a fellow hiker.
On Wednesday, we packed and checked out of our Latacunga hostel and rushed to catch the only bus to our next destination, Chugchilán. Fortunately, there was plenty of space until we were half way, and the bus was overrun by school kids on their way home. On arriving at our accommodation, an eco lodge on a hill above the town, we marvelled at the beautiful surroundings and just how cool the lodge was before zoning out in the cozy communal area before a gorgeous vegetarian dinner with the other guests, swapping travel stories.
Thursday morning, after a lovely breakfast at the Black Sheep Inn, we went out on an an easy hike down into a canyon near the lodge. We made it up to the other side, but because of the height and wind, we decided to turn back and retrace our steps rather than walk along the ridge.
Friday was a lot of work, though I took a walk up to the ridge over the valley on my own, and got a bit lost on my way down and ended up walking through an old man's potato field, who after some disagreement, let me pass at the cost of my lunch sandwich.
We left the Black Sheep Inn in Chugchilán on Saturday by truck with three other guests and stopped to see the gorgeous Quilotoa lagoon, a lake formed inside a sometimes active volcano. Two of our companions left us there to hike back to the lodge, while Zab, Alex (an American architect working in Haiti on his holiday in Ecuador) continued on to Zumbahua to see the Saturday market, before carrying on to Latacunga to catch a bus to Baños (for Alex) and Riobamba (for us). Once at our new hotel, we flaked out before walking around the town, did a spot of work and then had Chinese for dinner.
We got up early on Sunday to get tickets for a tourist train from Riobamba to Urbina (Ecuador's highest train station at 3640 metres above sea level) and back, along with several motorcycle escorts, which was a pleasant enough experience. The afternoon was just work. Pizza for dinner again.