Volcán Cotopaxi – eat your hearts out Seattleites

After dragging ourselves away from Quito and new friends, we headed to Cotopaxi National Park. The highlight of the park is 5897 meter Volcán Cotopaxi.

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We set camp at Tambopoxi for the night and braved the strong winds and rain to prepare dinner. Some less battle-tested campers joined us for the evening. Now, I don’t think I’d be stretching the truth if I use the phrase ‘clown tent’ to describe their sleeping situation. George asked them how their sleep was in the morning, which they quickly claimed was great. I call bullshit because that’s a one-season tent at best. Getting off my veteran camper pedestal and on with the day’s business, we set our sights on Cotopaxi. First, we fortified ourselves with another meal of potatoes, which we still had an overabundance of (welcome to traveling with George).

We took the well-graded dirt road up the volcano to a parking lot a few hundred feet shy of Refugio José Ribas (Jose Ribas Refuge) at 4864 meters (15,953 feet). If you’re paying attention, that puts us and Vida over 4400 meters without breaking a sweat which means we drove higher than Mount Rainier at 4392 meters.  It is then a short but heart pounding climb to the refuge and about a half hour more to the glacier. Although the climb is a relatively short one, it was definitely not easy going because of the altitude and steep incline. The highest point we hit on the hike was just over 5000 meters with George in a full stretch. For the mountaineer set, the refuge is also a base for summiting Cotopaxi. We’re told the groups leave around midnight and take approximately 6 to 8 hours to reach the summit.

That evening, we rewarded ourselves with a movie in the tent with a diy movie screen. Not too shabby. That thing was secure. George wouldn’t risk his mac ‘baby’ without a safety self-tightening knot just in case.

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All told, we loved the park and the climb. I’ve been dreaming about the Andes for several months, and Cotopaxi was surely a great welcome.

 

Into Ecuador – marking milestones and a new mindset for a new hemisphere

After one last hurrah in Colombia at Las Lajas Sanctuary near the border, we finally got our butts into Ecuador. We loved Colombia, but we were both ready to move on.

Our first stop was just outside of Otavalo at Rose Cottage. We were excited to visit the famous Otavalo market and stock up on some cozy alpaca things. At the end of our market visit and months of searching, we finally found a handheld orange juicer. The market had such good produce that we stocked up on some things including two bags of oranges and a bag of young potatoes. It would be OJ, coffee and potatoes each day for a week.

I’ve been following SeventeenBySix (two journalists and one euro van) for months because of their quality stories and documented camping spots. They’ve been in Ecuador for a while getting their van repaired, so we finally caught up with them. They were kind enough to let us stay in their apartment in Quito which is quickly becoming an overlander stopover. It wasn’t too long before Marcia and Doug (1/3 of Southern Tip Trip) rolled in to join us.

With a city base, we explored Quito and visited the long anticipated equator.

We don’t need someone to tell us we’ve come along way because our memories take care of that. It is sometimes nice to snap a pic that sums up in a shot just how far you’ve come though. We’ve hit the arctic circle, the arctric ocean, the 45th parallel, and finally yesterday the equator.

Moving into South America and the southern hemisphere has given us a chance to reset and reevaluate. What has really hit home the last couple of days is our constant rushing based on our preset end date. A year might seem like a long time, but tip to tip is a long way to go and all the good stuff is in the details. Yesterday, I started proclaiming ‘f$%k our end date, i’m sick of rushing’. Each proclamation got a little louder. Maybe I was trying to convince myself. We have a self imposed schedule primarily to ensure we don’t loose touch with our very fast moving industry. Now, what I hope and what I’m trying to believe is that I wasn’t employed because I was up to speed with all the new shinny things in the tech industry. I was employed because I got things done. So, maybe we’ll be back in the states by February and maybe we won’t, but this trip is not worth doing if you don’t get to stop and smell the coffee.