Here we all are – at the top of Cotopaxi. 19,000 feet!

Just kidding     This picture was taken in the museum!   😀

What an adventure!

So – today’s activity was a drive up to this lovely lagoon, walk around it, drive a bit further, and then perhaps hike up to the refuge just below the top of the Cotopaxi Volcano.   Weather was sketchy . .  Oh well    This was an adventure from beginning to end!   🙂

We loaded into the van at 8:30 sharp with all of our rain and winter gear    Gloves   Hats   Jackets   Buffs   Lots of water    But first we had to escape the morning traffic of Quito and head up into the mountains.  Our driver, Louis, is amazing   I do not know how he does what he does!    Crazy traffic.  We headed out of town on the big highway    After 20 minutes or so, Louis pulls over through four lanes of cars going rather fast.   He pulls over to the mid strip – seemingly trying to turn around into the oncoming traffic and head back in the other direction.   How is this going to be possible?     We waited patiently for a good five minutes with the blinker going and finally he made his move.   We all cheered for him.   Louis did this maneuver not once but twice!   As Cyndy would say, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!”     As in yikes!     I asked Freddie if Louis had gone the wrong way.  To which he replied, “No – there is another way to go to Cotopaxi but it’s on a major road and you have to pay a toll . .”    So, my friends, what do you think of that!?      Ecuador!

Also, as we made our way through the morning traffic, which at times was stop and go – there were all kinds of people selling all kinds of stuff!   Brushes   Toys   Clothing     One fellow promised to wash your car ..  he would just run along beside you as you made your way along the highway . .    Pretty funny . . .

You must need these items!

So – Cotopaxi erupted in 1998.   A major eruption    Freddie remembers it well.   It was 5:00 AM    A beautiful bluebird kind of day!    And then, all of a sudden – Cotopaxi let go!   No lava but tons of ash!  The ash formed a huge mushroom cloud 25 miles up in the air!    Everyone was out taking pictures – and then rushing inside to escape the ash when it fell, covering every structure in 3 inches of ash!     And then, the rain came and made the ash heavy and muddy and many people lost their lives trying to get rid of it off their roofs . . .

It’s a world of white up here!

Freddie has been to the top of Cotopaxi – at something like 19,000 feet!    If one wants to do this climb, he/she has to hire a guide   One guide for two people    You are roped together the entire way up from the refuge.    Some people stay a night or two here to acclimate themselves     They start out at midnight and hope to arrive at the top by 6:00.    It’s slow going at this altitude!   For one guiding experience, Freddie’s two people were experienced mountaineers but they ran into some trouble – fell – and never made it all the way up   He has scars on his head and legs to show for this experience . .

Wild horses along our travels.

This day trip thing is carefully scripted so that people have an opportunity to manage this adventure.   Especially, folks like us who don’t live at high elevation.   So we drove to this parking lot where there was a museum to show us all about the volcanos in Ecuador.   There were also bathrooms here  and a little shop.   At this shop, we treated ourselves to cocoa tea and some local chocolate!   Taking us back to our trek to Machu Picchu!  I do remember that the cocoa tea didn’t help me much when we crested Dead Woman’s Pass!   🤔

Just walking along

So – we drove to the lagoon and prepared for the next step in the process.     It was raining slightly so we geared up . .   We walked for maybe 45 minutes to an hour.   We were all getting rather out of breath.   This was concerning because the path looked mostly flat.   How were we ever going to hike up?   😳     About half way around, the rain came down in earnest.  My pants were soaked and I was struggling to keep my camera dry . .    Freddie decided we should turn around and head back the way we came as it was shorter and he didn’t want us all to be totally drenched . .    As we walked back, we realized that most of the time we were actually hiking uphill!   Phew!

The fog is rolling back in.

Back to the van for the next adventure – driving up to the parking lot for our hike up to the refugio.   This was an adventure in itself Rutted   Muddy    Huge holes    Slow going    For a good hour!   Freddie calls this a natural massage . .    We were holding on for dear life.   The scenery was beautiful, however   We watched the fog drifting back and forth across the mountains.  We passed lots of wild horses munching on the grasses.    The weather looked a bit better . .  We were hopeful.

Beautiful grasses and flowers along the road.

Once we reached the parking lot for our trek up to the refuge, we noticed a huge temperature difference   It was cold here – and windy!   Elevation here was 14,700 feet!   And we were heading up!   There were two options – straight up or switchbacks.    Jojo was definitely in favor of the switchbacks but I got outvoted because Freddie thought it would be too cold heading into the wind every other turn.   So – straight up it was!   Now bear this in mind – we were at very high elevation for us flatlanders.   We were hiking straight up!    Jojo could only go 6 or 7 steps without stopping to get my breath – literally!  ( Didn’t I mention my 75 year old body once before?     😀 )     So I decided it was going to be mind over matter.  I put my head down and walked – slowly and deliberately.      Looking forward to every single time we all stopped to catch our breath!   That was heaven!   And it wasn’t even pretty.  Just brown dirt underfoot – literally everywhere.  A cold drizzle and only an occasional vista amongst the fog and clouds.

Surreal scenery
There is the glacier way up there.    You can also see the refuge center.
Resting a bit . . .  Looking back
Jojo brings up the rear. 🙂
Martha and Jo celebrating our top!

Finally, we reached this plateau, where you could see the refuge!  Yeah!   The clouds cleared for an occasional photo and we were so happy to be within sight of the refuge   However, we decided to head back down at that point.  It was probably another 30 to 40 minutes of straight up walking and maybe even steeper!   It was cold and windy!   And – the elevation at this spot was 15,200 feet or so.   Higher than we had ever been !   It was enough . . .  😀

Heading back down. Steep going.
D’s bathroom break. How about his surroundings? 🙂

And then it was back down over those bumpy and rutty roads – back through lots of traffic – we decided to forgo lunch and have tea and cookies back at the hotel   4:30 it was that we rolled into our hotel.  Tired  but happy that we had such an amazing adventure!   We’re loving our pictures!     😀😀😀

Looking back as we traveled to Quito

On the way back into Quito, it was disconcerting to go through all the settlements – like our “projects.”   Ramshackle    In disrepair    Trashy    Whenever I travel to countries like Ecuador, through areas where much of the population lives, it does a number on my mind . .   How is it that I was born in America,  where opportunities are so vast.   That I can travel to amazing places and participate in such grand adventures.    These people may never see much more than their neighborhoods . .  The luck of the draw . . .     Makes me realize how very fortunate I am . . .


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