23.02.2012 - 25.02.2012
If you are thirsting for travel, have very little time, very little money, and want to do and see many different types activities in breathtaking landscapes, Ecuador is the place to go! It's relatively small compared to its South American neighbors, yet has beautiful jungles, beaches, canyons, and mountains. The other bonus is that food, accommodations, and transit are super inexpensive as well (i.e. USD 30 cents to take an hour bus ride across Quito!) In addition, Ecuadorians are generally shy but warm, friendly and helpful once you break the ice.
From Quito we decided to check out Cotopaxi. The hostel we stayed at was called the Secret Garden Cotopaxi. Although it was one of our most expensive stays, it included all meals, fireplace at night, and many great hikes during the day. The views were absolutely stunning.
Have you ever had altitude sickness? I have, and it sucked. Your hands and feet become swollen and tingly, you have trouble breathing even while standing still, you become dizzy, and your brain feels like it's trying to make its way out through your ears, eyes, and skull. To avoid this sensation, we decided to take it easy the first couple of days and did very mild activities such as horseback riding.
I have never been on a horse before. Camel - yes, carabao - yes, but never on a horse. Our guide was fantastic -- and his name was "Don Juan!" At 66 years of age, he was full of energy and had such a playful demeanor. He was gentle yet firm with the horses. I wish we had caught him "horsing around" on videotape... (I just HAD to say it!) The best part was Derek comically falling off the horse during his first attempt to get on, practically taking the saddle down with him!
On our last day we hiked up Cotopaxi from its base to the snowline (5000 m above sea level). My goal was to get to the snowline and throw a snowball. At the 5000m mark, I started to feel the altitude hit me. At the snowline, I crawled towards the closest bit of snow I could reach, barely formed an adequate ball of snow, and with all my might I threw it as assuredly (and as feebly) as Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. I think it landed about 5.6 cm at my feet. Yay me.
We have met a lot of people who have fallen in love with Ecuador and choose to make it their home for months to years at a time. Also, we have met a lot of people who keep coming back to visit Cotopaxi to explore all of the undiscovered trails, caves, and waterfalls in the area. After visiting this beautiful place, we totally understand why!