Ecuador – Cotopaxi and Quilotoa

We had a 6am start on Saturday morning to begin a trek to Cotopaxi, the second highest volcano in Ecuador and about 40 years overdue an eruption! Cotopaxi is located about 2 hours outside of Quito and stands at 5911m above sea level earning a ranking among the world’s highest active volcanoes.

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Snow capped Cotopaxi hiding behind the clouds!

We chose a tour operator called Gulliver Expeditions and when our Ecuadorian guide greeted us wearing a Jameson whiskey t-shirt, we knew we were onto a winner :).  After a delicious spread of pancakes for breakfast, we hiked to the refuge at 4,864m which is the highest altitude either of us have ever been at. The hike was difficult mainly because of breathing difficulty at altitude and unfortunately the weather was not on our side and the clouds impacted our views. At the refuge we learned that it is no longer safe to travel to the glacier at the top due to the risk of eruption…safety first I guess!!

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We were grateful for some hot chocolate and dark chocolate to help with the altitude once we reached the refuge.

After the hike we hopped onto our mountain bikes and cycled down the end of the trail back to our bus. I had cramps in my hands due to pure fear of letting go of my brakes but it was a super end to a fun afternoon.We ended with a well deserved three course meal and concluded it was $50 well spent for our tour!

We moved to a town called Latacunga after the hike where we had a rest before some more volcanic activity on Sunday. The journey to Latacunga involved our Cotopaxi tour bus dropping us on one side of a toll booth, providing some hand signals to a guard there, us walking across all the lanes of the toll booth in between traffic, and our new friend and personal guard stopping a bus headed to Latacunga for us! Our arrival in Latacunga was just as interesting as we got dropped off at a roundabout on a major road outside of the town. We later learned that most buses bypass Latacunga so you have to hike on and off here -never a dull moment! We caught a taxi to our hostel, Hostel Tiana, which was very well chosen.

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Personal escort between buses, at a toll booth!

The following day we had another bright and early start in Latacunga where we caught a local bus to Quilotoa to explore the crater of a volcano for the day. Quilotoa lagoon is a lake formed in the crater of the Quilotoa volcano.

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Quilotoa Lagoon

We spent 6 hours of the afternoon hiking the rim of the volcano on the high part above the lake. No two views were the same as the clouds moved and changed the color of the water for the afternoon. None of our pictures can do this justice it was truly incredible!

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The terrain kept us guessing for the duration of the hike, we had rocks, fields, sand, hills, flats and descents and along with that we barely met another soul along the route. We had to keep checking for the water on out left and eventually safely made our way around!

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