Cotopaxi Volcano stands aloof several miles from the train depot daring a hiking delight up its steep incline...capped with ice... But since August of 2015, danger threatens. Closed for awhile, now it remains open with warnings to proceed with caution. An eruption could come without warning.
Before Cotopaxi became noticeably active. a group of us stepped off the train into the rain at Boliche Depot like in the middle of nowhere.
Valerio approached us to offer a guided tour to Cotopaxi for $60 that could be split amongst us. There were 6 of us, so we accepted, since we had no desire to continue to Latacunga in the train...and the volcano beckoned to us in the first place... and $10 a piece wasn't bad.
Taking our places in the van, we traveled and traveled. Then, unannounceed Cotopaxi peered at us between the trees - what wasn't covered with clouds...and we still traveled... California pine trees behind us - trees that took over like they owned the place right after introduction a few years back - playing havoc with the native plants and trees, bullying some of them out - we rode on.
Lake Limpiopungo with seagulls and some geese flying overhead - some geese swimming - lay lazily beside the road. Valerio promised to stop on the way back. He informed us the birds beat humans to the trout and other fish. A very rare sight of the national bird, the condor, here would excite anyone.
The fog created a mystic look as we continued. The van sputtered to a stop at the steep ascent. For awhile we kept silent not daring to discuss what would happen if... Valerio turned the key in the ignition, restarted it, and off we crawled and sputtered our way to the parquiadero (parking place).
As we left the parked van, Valerio announced that the coffee shop could be reached 300 meters up. Drizzling and foggy weather adamantly would not allow us to see where we were going.
So we ascended...into the heavenly clouds...to the coffee shop. I pulled out my rain poncho that I bought from someone at the train depot in Quito, pulled it over my warm clothes and coat determined to "steeple" it up... very slowly and with help.
The clay-like soft dirt under my shoes teased it would give way at any moment. The thinner and thinner air had me gasping every few steps for breath with a sip of water every so often. Valerio had volunteered as my staff - and oh, what a patient and kind staff he proved to be.
At least 45 minutes to an hour later with me still clinging to Valerio's arm, I (we) tackled the ascent. Whew! Traces of snow dotted the landscape as opposed to the drizzling rain down below.
Inside the coffee shop I was greeted with applause as the others ate hot soup or munchies, drinking wine, hot chocolate or tea. I settled for a hot cup of tea, refusing wine so as not to topple over. The thin air challenged my balance enough.
Cotopaxi Volcano hiking to the top did not entice any of us. Let's face it, we didn't have what it takes.
Descending proved much easier and faster, but the soft dirt threatened to send us sliding. I still needed my staff, and he graciously accepted advising me how to use my heels as brakes.
Mission accomplished, we headed back to the depot to catch the train on its way back from Latacunga on to Quito, stopping for photos at Limpiopungo as Valerio had promised.
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