I wanted to end my time in Ecuador on a high – quite literally.
My final little adventure would get me to the highest I’d ever been – the base camp of Cotopaxi.
Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador’s most active volcanoes, with it’s highest point sitting just shy of 6,000 metres. It’s also amazingly close to Quito (or even Latacunga where I’d been based – the gateway to the Quilotoa Loop).
Setting out from Latacunga, my friends and I jumped on a bus heading towards Quito. We asked the driver to drop us off on the way and so jumped off half-way along at the Cotopaxi National Park (you can do the same thing coming from Quito).
As we’d hoped, a few cars were sitting there. They were waiting for tourists like us who didn’t want to pay the fees of tour companies and were doing it on the cheap.
My friend Jack bargained with the men until one gave us a good price, and we started heading up with this incredible view of the volcano.
Eventually, we got to 4,500m in altitude and the car couldn’t go any further. It was time to start walking.
Naturally, being with Jack and Justin, the easier route was never considered and we began the hard slog up the shorter, steeper option.
The refugio (basecamp) sat at about 4,800m. Although just 300 metres further up, it was hard work, taking more than half an hour for me to complete the walk!!
The short climb was actually so difficult with the new lack of oxygen, that I decided to stop my climb there. The guys continued on, reaching more than 5,000 metres. Justin tells me his fingers started tingling at that altitude!
As we started the journey down, the sky opened up and showered us with a (painful) hail storm.
Back at the car, we realised our driver wasn’t back yet. We were stuck in the middle of the storm! Fortunately, it didn’t last long and we got to enjoy the crazy Ecuadorian weather (I’d be burnt like never before while hiking in the previous few days).
What do you think of the volcano post storm now?
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