Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cotapaxi National Park

No matter where you are in the world and what amazing event you have planned there is nothing worse than the god awful sound of an alarm at 5:00 am. So after prying open my eyes and opening the curtains expecting to see the awesomeness of Cotapaxi I saw a cow, a couple of llamas and lots of clouds, my new nemesis.
No worried, after a pretty damn good breakfast I started my walk. It was 2km to the park, 5km to the ranger station then 14km to the lagoon, my destination. Situated at the base of the Volcano I figured this would be the perfect spot to chill, have lunch, take photos and again, stare in awe at Cotapaxi. I was not prepared to summit so I had to be a tourist on the volcano today.

I walked into the park easy enough and no sooner did I hear what I was pretty sure was last nights party still going on. Pretty routine stuff in Americo Latina. Sure enough, there was a small town called Santa Ana. I slowly wandering into town (7:30 am) and everyone was shit faced. Ladies drinking what I assumed was chicha, drunk ass dudes pouring themselves another beer and everyone laughing and having a good time. No problems except when I walked past said drunk dudes I got "Gringo, Gringo, Venga. Compartimos las cerveza. Now normally I would take up any off like this, but not when the boys have been drinking all night. (*note*  having a beer before 8:00 is still my favourite beer drinking time). I just wandered down the road, looked at the glossy eyes of old woman smiling at me and giggling...then the dogs. Out of nowhere the standard pack of local dogs started coming at me in a rage. I am sure I heard them bark "Leave our drunk ass owners alone". For anyone travelling down here charging dogs area an easy fix. Bend over and pick up a rock. These little bastards will stop in thier tracks and turn high tail.
So a lively start to the morning. Then I start the hike. The road leading to the rangers station was 5km, about an hour. I was surrounded by tall pines, the outlines of the Andeas peaking through the clouds, some dumb ass insect making a clicking sound (which I figured out later was my boot). There were lots of cars and small pickups passing by as this is a weekend retreat for the folks from Quito. I was fully stocked so just walked and enjoyed it.

At the Ranger station I paid my $2, registered, got some directions and off I went. They boys asked if I was walking, laughed, said good luck. I hope your legs are strong. Well they were no kidding. I got about another 4 k (guessing) into my hike (I am now on about 10K) and It was not until then that I noticed, hey I am climbing uphill and I am freaking tired.  Well just like that an old school bus pulls up and the driver smiles and says get in. I never moved so fast. He was with his wife and daughter and they owned the restaurant near the top. We talked, they laughed at me alot which was fun. From thier restaurant I grabbed a hot chocolate and started the 4 km up to the lagoon. Not 5 minutes in a car pulls up going down. They guys yells over and gives me water and a few biscuts. He saw me when he was on the way up and wanted to know how long I had been walking. 3.5 hour I said. He yelled out a Chupta, laughed and said Buena Suete. I love this country.

A young couple pulled up right away and offered me a ride to the top. Indeed I will thanks and off we go right to the Lagoon. Well the views were good not amazing because of the clouds and it was a perfect spot to chill for an hour. Then the long journey back.

Long story short, walking back, met up with a bike tour and about 5 km. I came across some farmers picking blueberrys from the side of the road. They called me over, told me they were mortiño (blueberrys) and offered me up a handful.  The same young couple pulled up, laughed (I am sensing alot of laughing at me today) and said No mas caminando. They drove to the park entrance. Another good day. Not because of the sights but because again it confirmed how amazing and helpful people are. I just hope I can take some of that away with me and make it Contageous.

Tomorrow I am just going to rest my aching legs, read and just chill at this amazing hostel.

On my way back down. Photo taken by a member of a bike tour.

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