On our final full day in Ecuador, after having taken a nice relaxing trip up to Papallacta to soak in thermal baths, we extended our stay past the G-Adventure’s Ecuador tour length to do a day trip to Cotopaxi National Park. Even more special, this was my birthday – December 25th. Oh, and Christmas.
Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador’s natural treasures. It’s one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, having erupted over 80 times thus far – most recently at the beginning of 2016. Its lava flows are responsible for having created much of the surrounding valleys. In addition, it’s one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world.
The day trip was booked through G Adventures, though I suspect they used a third party vendor on the day of. We were picked up at our hotel in Quito and the car ride was just under two hours. Really not too bad, as we got to see beautiful scenery along the way.
Once we got into the Cotopaxi National Park, our driver took the van up a bumpy, winding dirt road for what felt like ages. Eventually we made it to the parking lot near the trailhead, which has an elevation of 14,763 ft! Yup, we were already feeling the thin air at that point.
There were five of us on that tour. Our goal was to make it to the refuge center – the building with the orange roof (see below) – which has an elevation of 15,748 ft. Unfortunately, Joseph wasn’t able to acclimate to the high altitude well and decided to sit this one out.
I, on the other hand, was able to make my way up by keeping my breathing in check and just going as fast (or as slowly) as I was capable of. The cold weather also added to the speed, or lack thereof.
It took about an hour to make that 1k elevation increase, but we finally made it to Cotopaxi’s refuge!
There was a little café inside the refuge, and I was able to nab a hot chocolate and some chips for a few bucks. A couple of others in our tour wanted to climb a bit further up the mountain. I had considered joining them, but I would have just slowed them down. Besides, the weather had gotten even colder by this point, and I was not dressed accordingly.
So while we waited for them to return, I had a peaceful little lunch looking out onto Cotopaxi National Park.
I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my 31st birthday.
Soon, we were saying goodbye to Ecuador and flying back to D.C. Our first foray into exploring South America went off in an amazing way, and I’m really looking forward to future trips to this continent.