Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cotopaxi, Banos, and Papallachta

In order to see more of Ecuador instead of just Quito and our friend's apartment, we signed up for a few excursions. One of which was mountain biking down Cotopaxi Volcano. Cotopaxi National Park is the second most visited park in Ecuador, after the Galapagos. Its a national park because it is the water source for the city of Quito and beautiful Cotopaxi can be seen from different parts of the city. We took a two hour van ride to the park, then drove up the volcano until we could see the refuge for the mountain climbers.
It was really really cold at the base, so we were bundled up!
Jesse really enjoyed taking pictures of me while we biked down.
In addition to this, we also went to Banos, which is town, much lower than Quito altitude wise, where we rented a motorcycle to see some really cool waterfalls. The town is pretty small and is tucked in a valley in the mountains. We also just enjoyed the atmosphere of the town. It was pretty chill and relaxed, and has obviously been recommended in lots of travel guide books!

There were two waterfalls that were really awesome to see, one was called Cascada del Diablo, which is you look carefully, the devil's face does seem to appear in the rock.
Jesse crawled all the way up to the top (and I do mean crawled, hands and knees) to see and experience the mouth of the falls.
The other waterfall was tucked away and required us to hike down over 400 steps (yes I counted on the way up) in 100% humidity.
The last Ecuador adventure I am going to write about (Jesse will have to do one on the hike he did) is about our hike to Papallachta. Papallachta is a town, about two hours outside of Quito that has natural hot springs. Caitlin really wanted to go for her birthday which was a few days before we arrived. However, just arriving on bus didn't warrant the gloriousness of natural hot springs. We felt that we had to do something to deserve such a wonderful event. So we decided to hike to Papallachta. Jess and I felt fairly prepared, since we had just done the Inca Trail, so we were game. However, we were not prepared for this.

First, we went an hour out of our way. Not so bad, it was chilly, but our spirits were still high. We walked along for quite awhile, enjoying ourselves, chatting, following the trail. Then the trail disappeared. We were hiking along a ridge, with the wind gusting so much you could lean into the wind without any problem, when we lost the trail. The map we had wasn't very detailed (to say the least) so we had to depend on our wits. The land wasn't exactly what I was expecting, and neither was the cold.
We saw what appeared to be a trail on the other side of a lake, and then had to find a way to get there.
The unfortunate aspect was, that the mountain we had just climbed to see the trail, dropped off in a cliff. So we had to go up and down another mountain to get there. We basically slid down the mountain, holding on to the grass so that we didn't fall all the way down. Jesse and Caitlin, both needed to take breaks so they didn't go crazy.
Once we got to the lake, we had to cross a marsh and fjord a river, well creek.
All the while we were getting quite hysterical and were saving ourselves from mass hysteria with dried fruit, chocolate, and the vision of steaming hot springs in our future.

Then, once we actually found the trail and thoughts of imminent death has ceased, we could actually enjoy the rest of the hike and take pictures. The clouds and misting had dissipated, so the scenery was actually enjoyable.
We arrived at the ranger's station, looked at the map of the trail (we were way off!) and caught a ride the last 2 km to the hot springs!

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