Monday, May 5, 2014

Yoo 601 - Biking DOWN Cotopaxi

Ecuador Day Eight had us biking down Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. We hit it on a cloudy day, but the sky broke thru on occasion to reveal this stunning mountain.

For the record, it's an active volcano with recent seismic activity and the last major eruption in the early 1900s. Does that make this sound cooler? I'm trying here.

We successfully woke up in time to catch the 7am shuttle. And by shuttle I mean the back of an old Land Cruiser. Cozy and we had the trip to ourselves!

^^ altitude. getting chilly! ^^

^^ those gas prices are PER GALLON. ecuador has its perks. ^^

We stopped at the cafe at the Cotopaxi National Park's visitor center on the way up and were treated to carb heaven. Ok, we had to pay an extra $4 but there was hot chocolate and biscuits and granola and bananas and probably more that I don't even remember. Oh yes, cheese too. One of our more expensive meals in Ecuador!

^^ clearly i need to practice my overhead-bike posing because everyone looks cool except me! ^^

The parking lot is still several hundred (maybe more...) meters below the summit. There were a few groups preparing to hike to the top while we were preparing to careen down on bikes.

^^ right in the thick of the clouds! ^^

^^ our guide was super. one-hundred and ten percent recommend biking dutchman. ^^

^^ "hypothetical question, were would one go to poop out here?" ^^

Except not hypothetical because it actually happened just seconds later! There was NO WHERE to take cover except to disappear over a steep but still navigable ledge out of site of the parking area but unfortunately still in full site of the road.

It was basically Alisha's favorite moment in Ecuador

Oh yes, and a passing tourist van's favorite moment as well, I'm pretty sure.


All of the bragging about how well her body was handling Ecuador finally caught up!

^^ and they're off! ^^

^^ hoping the brakes work! ^^

The first half of the ride was a combination of steep and wash-boarded roads. Our arms were pretty pumped at the bottom. And Greg blew a tire! We took a couple minutes to relax before continuing on the more scenic but less demanding bottom half.

The bottom half wasn't as bone-rattling but it was scenic and peaceful. There wasn't anyone in sight and we just pedaled on, barely below mountains draped in clouds and over dirt-packed roads winding thru a lush carpet of grass and wildflowers.

I had to keep pinching myself.

Our guide followed way behind in the Land Cruiser and occasionally caught up to direct us at road crossings.

Wild. Horses.

They galloped past us and it might as well have been a movie. Too cool.

Pics or didn't happen. Oh, it happened!

Greg almost looks hard-core in this shot. Love him.


LUNCH was something amazing. We parked next to a creek and our guide whipped out a pasta salad and some spinach egg pastry thing? I don't know what it was but I ate at least three. Good stuff. And brownies. Alisha is a brownie and cookie and cake snob but Greg and I are not. Loved the brownies.

Then Alisha bought a bunch of hats from a lone lady and her shopping hut before we were back on the bikes. This time going down a gravel road past farmland and cows and everything that's amazing in the country.

I'm seriously pining to be relocated back in the country but that's a post for another time.

The last bit of our trip was over too quick and it was time for one last "restroom" stop before a bumpy ride back to Quito.

We knew we wanted to be in Otavalo, a couple hours north of Quito, by morning for their famous market so we tried to figure out how to make that happen. Our efforts to hail a taxi were futile and we wandered around until I saw a bus with a sign for "North Terminal" in its window. I was pretty sure that's where we needed to be to catch a bus for Otavalo so we hopped on with our massive packs just in time for rush hour.


And it really took us at least an hour to drive a few miles to that bus terminal. Then we got there and some family in line ahead of us held the ticketing process up for about another hour. We have no idea why but our Spanish is limited so what can you expect?

The obligatory photo. Look at that line behind us! It stretched waaaaaay past this picture frame. We'd set up camp on our packs and I'd read about half of Atlas Shrugged (kidding! i'm only two-thirds of the way thru that book and i started reading it over a year ago...) when the line started moving again. We were a little disgruntled when we got our tickets at about six and they had a departure time of 8:30 on them. More waiting!

Or so we thought.

Alisha pushed her way to the buses and we'd boarded one bound for Otavalo before we really knew what was going on. Success! As weird as it seemed that Greg, Alisha, and I were traveling together, it was fun to see our strengths come out at different times. We each had our moments on the trip were we shined and got the group out of difficult situations or helped avoid them all together. It was a surprisingly easy, fun, and beneficial arrangement.

But we still think Alisha should get a husband someday. I mean, mainly so we're splitting costs between four people instead of three. :-)

And, long story slightly shorter, we made it to Otavalo! Alisha had the world's fullest bladder and everyone was denying her restroom access and finding a hostel wasn't the easiest thing we've ever done but we rounded up a good one, utilized yet another tiny sink for some laundry, and had a relaxing "Alisha's Birthday Eve". Complete with more rickety bunk beds!

Have a great day :-)

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