Cotopaxi National Park

Another day and another wow factor! On this day having been fortunate to have seen the Quito parade first thing in the morning we were driven to Cotopaxi National Park for a high altitude trek.

Before reaching the national park we stopped at a lovely Swiss style chalet restaurant and shop called the Rondador Cotopaxi where we ordered lunch and purchased snacks for the trek.

To deal with the altitude I had purchased some coca leaf sweets from a street hawker in downtown Quito – Chris and I had plenty of coca leaves and coca tea while in Peru in 2016 but I thought sweets might be easier – and give me a small energy rush for the hiking.

I also purchased a tin of invigorating coca balm which I thought might help if I get any joint pains (which I don’t usually but the idea was good…) until I got back to the hotel and realised it was coca and marijuana! I quickly binned this before forgetting it was in my wash bag and getting arrested upon arrival back at Heathrow!

Cotopaxi is located about 50 km south of Quito and is an active volcano having last erupted in January 2016. At 5897 m, Cotopaxi is the second highest peak of Ecuador.

We were driven through the national park to an altitude of around 3700 meters. The height where people can get altitude sickness usually begins at around 2500 meters and can cause all kinds of symptoms, most commonly headaches.

We had all wrapped up in several layers and began our trek into the mountains. To be fair, we didn’t get very high and reached an elevation of 3880 m at the highest point. We didn’t get very far either and literally just walked around a small lake. We took it slowly as the aim was to enjoy the scenery, listen to the guide explain various facts and show us different indigenous fauna and ensure nobody suffered any ill effects!

Thankfully all was well and for the first half of the walk it was cloudy with Cotopaxi hidden from view. Thankfully the clouds cleared and gradually before our eyes the magnificent volcano was there in front of us in all its glory! Wow! What an amazing cone shaped volcano.

Our trek was pretty tame however it is possible to climb Cotopaxi if you are adventurous! Apparently it is more difficult than climbing Kilimanjaro, involves crossing icy ravines and only 70% of people reach the summit.

We returned past the lake where we could spot indigenous birds from a viewing hide and returned to our mini bus.

We were taken higher into the national park on a drive through the ‘Avenue of Volcano’s’ although the cloud had descended again.

But this didn’t prevent us from seeing some of the other volcanos in this spectacular landscape!

As our mini bus was leaving the national park the clouds cleared again and our lovely driver Wilson kindly pulled over stopped for us to pile out and take a few shots and selfies!

Explore group selfie

Next up was a return to the Rondador for a tasty lunch where we sat on a big table in what was like a large wooden conservatory with Cotopaxi views!

When Chris and I are travelling we make a point of trying the local beer – and this was no exception. With lunch I tried an Ecuadorian local brew Pilsner.

Today I chose a potato, avocado and cheese local speciality soup for lunch. While it might seem odd putting cold avocado into a bowl of soup it actually was most tasty.

Our adventures for today were not yet finished as following lunch we stopped at the ‘Success Rose’ nurseries. We were shown around the nurseries where thousands of roses are grown ready to be picked and exported.

There are many rose producers in this part of Ecuador as the climate and altitude provide excellent growing conditions.

Selecting roses ready for distribution

Roses are sent from Success Roses to destinations across the world. At the end of our tour we had a look around the shop which sold a range of gifts including rose chocolate, rose candles and rose reinvigorating sprays.

All packaged and ready to go

This was the last activity of a fantastic and diverse week of fun and adventure in Ecuador. With the new friends I made at the start of the trip and the energy and guidance from Leo I have loved every minute.

We were excited tonight as we were being driven back to Tumbaco to the hotel where we joined at the beginning of the trip. Here we had an early night before our flight from Quito to the Galapagos in the morning! Yippeee…

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