Monday, 10 January 2011

Into the wild Cotopaxi

While in Quito we decided to go for a few relaxing days surrounded by nature in an Eco-friendly lodge near the volcano Cotopaxi, our initial idea of relaxation suffered a big twist of faith and very soon we realized that this was going to be an activity intense stay .
We left Quito in a Jeep, sharing the ride with an american couple and a dog.
The trip was very smooth through all the Panamericana (its supposed to be the highway that crosses most of the south and central american countries, with the exception that sometimes it disappears from the map and the other times its just another dust road used by tractors), until we arrived to Machachi and finally started our way up on the basalt and sometimes mud roads before arriving to a place where cows, horses and lamas coexist.

Our arrival to the lodge was very welcomed by the few volunteers working there. They very quickly made us feel at home before serving us a tasty lunch consisting of a big soup made of ingredients that are grown in the farm just two steps from the main entrance, in fact all the meals served there are made of ingredients that are biologically grown in the farm outside.

Soon after the meal Carolina, one of our hosts, proposed that we go for a little walk to check the surroundings, she insisted that we take rubber boots because we would need to cross a few little rivers before arriving to some waterfalls.
Our walk started first in the the meadows and as we walked further up we entered a place with more dense vegetation until we got to the river bed.
Anywhere else in the world this activity would be called canyoning, but here it was called 'little walk after lunch'. With our bellies still savoring the soup and not so concentrated on the wet path, some of us slipped and decided to go for a swim in the river with clothes on, it was very refreshing!
 
The return back to the hostel was done in the river bed, and the few that didn't fall into the river or didn't have wet clothes were surprised first with strong hale followed by torrential rain. Result: everyone arrived soaking wet, and the prize was...Jacuzzi!
Yes this is a special place, on one hand fully Bio and Eco-friendly, on the other hand some luxuries that can only be found in high class hotels, all this in the middle of nowhere surrounded by beautiful landscapes.
After dinner everybody was so tired and still adjusting to altitude (the hostel was at 3500 m), that short after 10 in the evening, the living room was filled only by the light coming from the fireplace.

Next morning at 6h15 the birds outside woke me up, there was plenty of light outside but the sun was still below the horizon, this image was the first thing that I saw.
Good Morning Cotopaxi.
The views were amazing, so instead of going back to bed we decided to go for the morning yoga session.
After an energizing breakfast we went in direction of the snow-capped volcano. The jeep carrying mountain bikes on the roof, took us up to the base of the volcano, where the road ends, from there on we had to make it on our own.

The hike up to the refuge took less than one our, and the main adversities were the snow that kept on falling through all the way up, the strong wind and the lack of oxygen.
We felt better than expected, and it was with a lot of disappointment that we received the news that we could not go to the glacier because of the weather conditions and the deep snow on the way.
But we were happy, we were at the same height as the Mt. Blanc, and at some point the clouds opened up allowing us to enjoy the beautiful view to the peak of the Cotopaxi volcano and the surrounding mountains.
The way down was easier than going up, with the help of gravity we made part of the descent sliding on our bellies or on our backs.
We got back to the jeep where we picked up the mountain bikes, that where lacking maintenance, and started our way downhill. The breaks where not in the best of condition, and the freezing cold wind almost made me loose sense in my finger tips (even with gloves), but fortunately everybody made it safe to the bottom of the volcano.
At the meeting point, half an hour of downhill later, the jeep was waiting for us and despite the difficult terrain and the state of the bikes Helena and I decided to continue our way back 'home' enjoying the beautiful scenery pedaling on the old bikes rather than sitting in the back of the bumpy jeep with the rest of the group.
And I think we made a good choice, during the next 1.5 hours we appreciated the landscape and made friends with a few locals.
 
I must admit that we arrived very tired, with altitude sickness starting to kick-in and we were hungry and thirsty. We spent the rest of the day trying to rest, the ambiance around the fireplace was great, with people singing, playing guitar and with some great laughs.
Next morning the planned activity was horseback-riding. We had already tried it in Cuba, but these horses where a lot more fit than the tiny and slim Cuban ones, and this time we had the chance of really riding the horse in the open (instead of following a marked path and the horse answering to the bell of the horse owner, as it was in Cuba).



The experience was great, first the communication with the horse and to make him follow my orders, than the amazing views of the Cotopaxi volcano and its surroundings and finally just the innocence and pure contact with nature.

Half the way, we had the opportunity to hike up one of the mountains (4600 m) just in time for the clouds to open, allowing us to enjoy a full 360 deg view.
Not an easy climb, since I have had problems with altitude the night before and Helena had woken up that day with a big headache.
The way back was mostly done in silence, sometimes letting the horse run freely down the path. Great sensation.


 
That night I was completely broken and Helena was coming down with a virus (two days later I had to force her to see a doctor), so for precaution we went to bed earlier than ever.

Next morning we said goodbye to Cotopaxi and this great experience in the middle of the nature where we met some really nice people full of talent.

2 comments:

various_artists said...

pictures look great.
the text is also excellent:
- people talking with horses:
"The experience was great, first the communication with the horse"...
- happy refreshed people:
"some of us slipped and decided to go for a swim in the river with clothes on, it was very refreshing"...
one could think of it as the standard behavior of the type of people that climbs volcanoes...
Enjoy and keep posting!

nuno said...

About the communication with the horse here's how I do it:
>Oooohhh= stop
>Ooh ooohhhh= stop
>Oooh caballoooo= slow down/stop
>'clok clok' (sounds with mouth)+ kicking= move
>slapping the horse neck= whenever the horse got what I wanted him to do.

about the refreshing dip in the river, hmmmm... in fact I slipped from the waterfall and went sliding on the rocks before diving in the natural swimming pool...but dont tell mum, she gets worried easily.