Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Cotopaxi, Ecuador, Part Two

Our view from breakfast.

I probably wasn't at Cotopaxi long enough to justify a second blog post, but there are so many photographs that I want to share.

Our final morning there, the weather was very different. First, there were no clouds anywhere in sight. Also, it wasn't misting. It was sunny enough to get a light sunburn and warm enough to hike in a t-shirt. I was sweating on our hike up to Pasochoa (4200m), the extinct volcano directly behind our hostel.

Tina and Mash hiking through the forest.

The moss covered forest.

The start of the hike took us through the Andean fighting bull fields again. This time, we did see a couple bulls. They didn't move and we took the long way around to avoid them. After we got lost in the fields, we found our way with a little help from a second guide and entered the moss covered forest. The forest was damp and, at times, hard to walk through. The trail had never been maintained or cleared. It just seems like people have formed it by walking there year after year and pulling branches out of the way as necessary. It was fun, but I was definitely over it by the time we cleared the forest.

Hiking inside the extinct volcano.

Hiking among the tussock.

These two dogs, Mash and Bazel, escorted us the entire way.

Some of the vegetation we tramped on our walk up.

Our guide, Carlos,and Bazel.

When we cleared the forest, we came out onto a clearing filled with tussock (bunched grasses). It looked like we were walking around and up the inside slope of a long extinct volcano. On the way, we saw wild horses and even learned a little Spanish from our guide, Carlos. I was really happy with how functional my Spanish was. When I studied in school, I was usually a B student, but in Ecuador, with a little work, I was usually able to communicate most of my ideas in Spanish. Tina doesn't really know Spanish, but was able to follow along with her other language skills.

Next to last ascent before we reached the summit.

It is amazing how many different plants grow in such a small area.

As we got into the tussock, the clouds had moved in over Cotopaxi. We couldn't see it at all even though when we woke up there was not a cloud in the sky. I can't believe how quickly the weather moved in. Luckily, it did not move in on us. We continued to have sunny weather all the way up to the summit. On our way up, the hostel dalmatian, Bazel, and dachshund, Mash, stayed with us the entire way. It was only a five hour hike, but Mash's legs were so short, I didn't think he would make it. He did and he did it day after day, which is probably why he was so skinny. When I saw them get fed, Mash actually got a bigger bowl of food than the other dalmatian who didn't hike with us.

A great view back down the mountain (we came up on the right).

Looking north towards Quito.

At the summit, the ridge was holding back a huge cloud bank. I think that ridge is the only reason we had such a sunny hike. During a snack on the summit, we couldn't see anything to the north because of the all the clouds. Just as we were about to leave the summit, the clouds cleared and gave us a quick peak at Quito and the terrain to the north.

Heading back home. Cotopaxi is behind those clouds.

After we came down from the hike, we had a quick lunch at the hostel. Our original plan had been to go to Quito and transfer to a bus. However, they said they could arrange a driver directly to Mindo which would save us a bunch of time. We happily accepted, piled into the truck, and were off.


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