Hello again to everyone,
Well it has been a very interesting few days. The longest we have stayed anywhere and have done a lot during our stay south of Quito by a town called Machachi. We booked our stay at an old farmhouse called Papagayo which organizes tours and activities throughout the area. I had organized a five day acclimitization program with a final summit of Volcan Cotopaxi at 5897m. Amongst the other peaks in preparation were El Corozon and Iliniza Norte. While I was off climbing mountains Liz was relaxing and doing some horse riding as well as meeting all kinds of interesting characters that came through the lodge.
Some highlights (or lowlights, if they may be) of the week were:
Watching the cook's one year old son, Antonio, almost get run over by one of the tour operator's jeep....and when we say almost, we mean within centimeters!
Having the lodge manager storm past me saying, "I'm sorry. I have been driving around looking for Aaron and his guide for a half hour and I can't find them. Sorry." and then walk away with no other explanation. (Obviously, he did return several hours late, but still in one piece, albeit very badly sunburned!)
Riding for the second time ever on a horse and realizing a half hour into a three hour tour that my saddle was shifting off the horse and having to use the strength of my arms just to keep myself on as we galloped through the countryside. (I still had a great time and saw amazing views of the surrounding mountains and farms)
As Liz mentioned above, it was quite a contrast between highs and lows. So it goes when you're somewhere else.
El Corazon was my first hike and as she mentioned a little longer than expected. The hike was beautiful and the guide was a good kid but the trip to get to the drop off point was not your typical drive in to a National park in the states. I'll put it like this, the "world's most dangerous road" in Bolivia has some competition. The whole hour we drove up I was switching back and forth across the bench seat to be ready to jump out of the jeep if we slipped off the muddy trench of a road that we were taking. Knowing about the road back, when Luis the guide asked me if I wanted to go to the same drop point or "walk a little bit"...I gladly answered "I could walk a little...". I know next time that even if I feel like walking "a little bit" I might want to just say nah.
Iliniza Norte was another long day only due to the fact that I met Victor along the way and asked him if he wanted to join me and my guide to the summit. After setting out from the refuge I noticed he didn't have any gloves on and only some cross-trainers to hike in. Needless to say my guide and I were helping him cope with the cold (I lent him some gloves) and keeping him from sliding down the sheer pass called "Paseo de los muertos" (pass of the dead or dead mans pass). The funniest part though was that in the beginning I thought he had introduced himself as from "Canadia"...and later learned that it was "Canaria"...the Canary Islands. It was pretty strange for a Canadian not to speak a word of English and be completely fluent in spanish.
The trip for me was culminated by the most rewarding and hardest thing I've ever done in my life. The hike up glaciated Volcan Cotopaxi was one that cannot be described by words. The stay at the refuge (4800m) was a true mountain experience with all the Germans and Austrians talking about their trips through the Alps and Himalayas of Pakistan. Then starting out the climb of my life at 12am was pretty strange too. I will let the pictures speak for themselves (not that they can do any justice) and just say that my guide Sergio will be doing it again tomorrow...only two days after our trek. That was after doing it just a few days before with another group. I don't think the Germans got anything on the Ecuatorianos...
We are back to our current "home" - with currently no running water, a tv with one station of pure static with words (that's the ammenity), and an electric shower with exposed wires - needless to say, we are going to stay dirty for the next day or so. We are in Saquisili for the area's most important market tomorrow morning. We will be getting some rations of our own - rice, veggies, and maybe some corn to pop as a treat for our first nights of camping. We are off to Zumbahua and Quilotoa for some camping and more hiking.