Today is our last day in Quito. Jovani got the all clear from the dr this morning, so we are ready to start the next leg of our journey. Tonight we take an overnight bus to the coast, to a small town called Mompiche where we will stay for a week.
Yesterday we finally made the trek to the snow capped volcano that we have seen in the distance since our first day here in Ecuador. The volcano is called Cotopaxi and it is an active stratovolcano 5897 meters high. It erupted just last year. The are numerous tour operators that will take you there at a cost of about $75 per person. We are of course, budget travelers and $375 to climb a volcano is not in the budget. Thankfully, there was another way. We took a bus towards the volcano and it let us off about 5 miles from the Cotopaxi National Park which surrounds the volcano. From there a “guide” with a 4×4 truck drove us up the mountain for a total of $75.
The kids loved the ride up which was about 45 minutes of bouncing up the dusty, ash covered road. The first stop was a shallow glacier fed lagoon which was only 30 cm deep. We saw a variety of wildlife, wild horses, many species of birds, and a large lizard. The guide told us that there are deer and even mountain lions that live on the volcano.
We drove higher still, and then arrived to a parking area more than 4000 meters above sea level. Climbing to the snow line seemed like an easy thing to do from the parking area, it was only an ascension of about 1000 more meters. What I didn’t take into account, was the lack of oxygen, 40 mph wind, and the whiny children.
Judah began complaining pretty much as soon as we stepped out of the vehicle. The wind was intense and we are not accustomed to cold. We are also pretty big fans of oxygen and there’s not much to be had at this altitude. We began the ascent taking the easy, meandering route that the guide recommended. Even taking the easy way we had to stop every hundred meters or so to catch our breath.
Judah was still whiny even though Israel was letting him hitch a ride on his shoulders. I finally got to a point where I had to sit down because I was seeing stars. Jovani was still motivated to see the snow so we decided to let Jovani and Israel continue to climb while I went back down to the parking area with Joaquin and Judah. Jovani and Israel made it to 4800 meters before they stopped. Jovani was disappointed that he didn’t get to see snow up close, but he was proud of himself to make it as high as he did.
Even though we didn’t make it as high as I wanted, the views were amazing. I’m thrilled that we were able to see the volcano up close. I have a new found respect for mountain climbers, what they do is truly incredible!