Monday, May 30, 2011

Our first taste of snow in over a year Cotopaxi National park

While it was bound to happen while traveling in the high Andes. We got a taste of old man winter in Cotopaxi National park, its home to one of the highest active volcanoes in the world its pinnacle is over 5,800 meters. We entered the park for only $2 each which recently dropped from $10 just last year. Before entering the park we saw a cafeteria selling coca tea made from coca plants, and yes,! same plant that makes cocaine. It cost $1 a cup and tasted alot like alight green tea with too much sugar, it supposedly helps with altitude sickness but didn't work us. The park allows cars inside so we drove as far as possibly parking at the base of the volcano which is about 4500m. We hiked up1.5hr to the base camp which is about 4900, and was really too cloudy to see anything but its a great feeling to just reach that point. I know it doesn't sound much 400 meters but when your walking on lose volcanic ash, in a snow storm and at high altitude its pretty dam hard. I really got to give credit to the people that climb to the top, they say it takes about 8 hours you need a guide and special equipment.

we had no gloves so Ji, had the brilliant idea of wearing socks to cover the hands

We made it, just to base camp
check out this guys gloves
this person couldn't make it
A prepared Ecuador family
After coming down we went to lake Limpiopungo, its largest in the park and formed during the ice age.  It took us an hour to walk around the lake with great views on either side we only wish it was a clear day to get a better picture of Cotopaxi volcano. While after all this walking we decided to camp in the park. They had signs for camping and we saw 2 different camp sites on the road to the main entrance. This is one of the scariest nights we've had camping. Nobody at the site, no stars because of the cloud and think fog, plus the wind made such a eerie sound that shock the sienna. Glad we got through that night alive. Next will be the Quilotoa loop to see the crater lake.


scariest camp site ever

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Quito lots to do and see plus we got free yellow fever vaccine

Our 2 weeks in Quito has come to an end and like to recap our highlights of the capital. First we found a great hostel for only $14 a night included secure parking, wifi, kitchen, living room, bedroom all to ourselves, plus the roof top view was beautiful.
I know most of you are thinking 2 weeks in the capital! but we wanted to slow down but this city wouldn't allow us, it really has alot to offer.
Our first week we saw the international acclaimed Jacchigua "is Ecuador" folklore ballet at the national theater. It was expensive at $30 a ticket but we got the in as students $25. The show has 90 dancers and musicians for  2 hours telling 6 different stories, overall was great to see but would have been alot better and for the performers if the idiots taking pictures would have turn off their flash.  Note: every Friday you can catch a similar folklore show at the Palacio Arzobispal for only $2.

The city is also a very bicycle friendly with bike lanes in the new part of town this was a real highlight for us. We could just get on the bikes and ride through the city parks and on the main city street without worrying about getting run over but you still have to keep your eyes open because the odd motorcycle will use those lanes. If your not as lucky as us to travel with bikes you can rent them all over the city and its a great way to see the new town. Note on Sundays they close of roads in the old town for bicycle sort of a family day.

giving out free water at president square

Our hostel actually has a great view of the Basilica cathedral in old town but we wanted an close and up look and I mean up. From our roof top the church looks big but as we got within a 2 blocks, its huge. Its free to enter and the first thing you notice is the height but for the adventurous type like you know we are, yeah right! 
you can pay $2 each to climb the towers. The height is enough to scare people but when you add in that fact these 3rd world makeshift ladders and stairs makes going up almost dangerous. Lucky for us the view from top was worth the risk but I am sure not all will be this lucky.

walking the pirate plank

thats where that ladder takes you

On the weekend we decided to see Volcano Pinhinch, we took the cable car up to about 4000m and had to hike the rest of the way up to 4700m. On our way up we meet Domingo, who we shared the cable car with hes from Dominica Republic. I notice he was low on water and offered to share ours so the 3 of us hiked together while taking in the stunning views every step of the way. After about 4 hours the trail kind of turn to steep dirt hill and seem too dangerous to continue so we took a long break enjoying the view and air. The decent only took an hour an half back to the cable car and we went our separate way. We took the cable car down and started looking for a bus, at the bus stop we heard Domingo, calling us, he was in a cab and offered us a ride back into town. Thanks Domingo for the company and ride.

see that rock structure thats where we heading

couldn't make sense of these signs but we have walked about 1/4 of the way

final steps

made it YEAH!

On our final week we saw the works of Oswaldo Guayasamin he is Ecuador's famed indigenous artist. His art worked seems very dark and sad perhaps a reflection of his own poor childhood. Never the less his art work is unmistakable. Guayasamin last gift to the people was his building of the "La Capella del hombre" (the chapel of man) which he died before its completion.

Keep a light on, I will always be back

Oh yeah almost forgot about the free yellow fever vaccine if anyone is planning on going to the jungle or even Brazil you will need this vaccine. We got the shot for free but if you need the international card stating you got it, you will have to pay an fee of $10 for the card. Two blocks west of Santo Domingo church at the heath centre in the old town.

is it going to hurt doc? Si seƱor!