To say my experience visiting Cotopaxi was an adventure is an understatement to say the least. I asked my school director if I could leave a few hours early to catch a bus at 11:00 so I wouldn’t be traveling at night. From Otavalo I knew it was going to take quite a while to get there, especially travelling on a bus. I left my house at 10:45 to get to the bus, at 12:00 I finally got on the Cita Bus that should have taken me right there. My host dad even went with me to the bus stop and talked with the driver about exactly where to drop me off. A few hours later (and still an hour later than I imagined because the bus was late) I was dropped where I thought I would be able to get a taxi right to my hostel. It didn’t take long after I stepped off the bus to realize that my bus driver had completely forgot about me and drove about 45 minutes past my stop. He didn’t even bother to tell me either. I was in the middle of nowhere with no possibility of getting a taxi to my hostel, because it was still another hour or so in the other direction. So I decided to hop on the next bus going to the direction I had just come from until I reached the nearest city, Machachi. On the bus I called the number for a taxi driver who told me to “find the horse statue” and said he would meet me there. 30 minutes later I had found the horse statue and Raul, the taxi driver, had found me.
Raul was just a regular, middle aged, Ecuadorian man who works directly with the hostel I was heading to, but man was he funny. Because the ride was a pretty long one (around 50 minutes) Raul asked if he could bring his lady friend, Olga, along with us. So the three of us were finally on our way. It was an oddly clear day, which is pretty rare for Cotopaxi. Raul would continuously stop the car and say “OH you have to get a picture of that! Go on, I’ll just wait here for you”.
At one point Raul pointed to a pretty small mountain to the east of us and said, “Yup, there’s Cotopaxi” and started to give me a brief history to the volcano. I was surprised because it was so small. Did I travel all this way for that? But I believed him because he said he had lived in Machachi his entire life. He knows more than I do, right? Then I head quiet Olga pipe in from the back seat. She was laughing and said, “Are you kidding? Cotopaxi is behind us. Raul, I think that’s just a hill over there”. When we both turned around to see the giant snow cover volcano behind us Raul was just as shocked as I was. He had lived there his entire life and it was as if he had never noticed it before.
It was around 5:30 when I finally arrived at The Secret Garden and I really needed a bathroom and a bottle of wine (in that order). I meet all my new roommates for the weekend and we headed to the hot tub for the night, which was only interrupted by dinner at 7:30 and the search for more wine a few times. We all went to bed around midnight with the terrible thought that we would all have to wake up at 7:00 am the next morning (mostly likely feeling all the wine from the night before) to do a 6.5 hour hike of Pasochoa.
Luckily, we were happily awaken at 6:15 the next day feeling refreshed and ready to go! I was more than shocked. We even had time to sit in a hammock, drink a cup of coffee, and write for an hour before breakfast was served. If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is.
We left for the hike, with a group of about 20, around 8:30. We were all given a pair of mud boot to wear instead of our hiking boots and were told that “it can get a little wet”. Personally, I thought that the boots would be a bit of an overkill, but boy was I proven wrong. This was, without a doubt, the hardest hike I have ever been on. We reached around 4,200 meters and we walked through rivers to get there. We arrived at the top of the summit in about 3.5 hours and the weather was absolutely beautiful. It was warm and pretty sunny, which is unusual for this region. I started hiking in 3 layers that morning, one of which being a thermal set and it only took about 30 minutes until I was down to just my t-shirt.
We stopped at the top for lunch and someone had to mention how lucky we were that it hadn’t rained. Not even 3 minutes later it was down pouring and like 35 degrees. So happy I brought a pair of gloves with me. We were all thinking well, at least the hard part is over, we reached the top. But have you ever tried to hike down a mountain in about 6 inches of mud for about three hours? It was not easy.
And we are a few hours in, and a good chunk of my water bottle is gone. I really had to go to the bathroom. I’d like to say, it is MUCH easier to pee in dry bushes than wet ones. Is that rain or pee going down my boot? I don’t know. I don’t even care. I just want to get home. Whoever wore those boots after me should probably watch out.
We slipped and slide all the way down. I’ve never seen so many men do the splits. It was like Olympic gymnastics on the side of Pasochoa that day. At one point I managed to slide a good 10 feet down on my belly before I could pop back up and yell “we’re good”. My blue clothes returned brown and soggy.
Compared to that, the rest of the weekend seemed pretty dull. Other than the compost toilet. There is nothing dull about a compost toilet.
There was more wine, food, hot tubs, and hammocks. I meet a bunch of people from other countries and we headed out on Sunday afternoon. I made it back to Otavalo around 7:30 that night completely exhausted and a little sore from the day before. I’m not sure if it was from climbing for six hours or an injury from falling down the side of a mountain, but it only lasted for a few day so I’m not too worried to find out which.