Cotopaxi, camping at 3600m and climb to the hut and glacier at 4900m
Monday, 28.January cont.
So we went camping anyway in the afternoon, but it was pretty wet and the lodge would have been better. It was about an hour’s drive into and through the park from Hacienda Cienega in an old somewhat clapped-out, but with four-wheel drive, bus which we now had as transport. At least there was plenty of space and it seemed to be able to climb the mountains remarkably well. On arrival we walked to a nearby lake and got quite wet from the heavy rain in the process but at least we saw some lapwings and their young at close quarters – they attacked us. Cotopaxi was also at close quarters but invisible in the cloud. Back at the camp it was all organised similarly to what I had experienced on Kilimanjaro or in Nepal except for the bus being there. We were the only campers at the site.
The next day had a 6.00 breakfast at my insistance (only the guide did not want it) because the weather is better in the morning, although we only saw Cotopaxi vaguely for about 30 seconds. It paid off and we had a good walk slightly lower below the cloud and actually past the Tambopaxi lodge where we would have liked to stay. Later we retreated in there from the rain for a second lunch. Whilst it had still been dry and partly sunny the main attractions were a heard of ‘wild’ horses it a small canyon and an Inca ruin which looked like a Lake District stone wall on top of a little hill. It was a good place for our first lunch, again at my insistance otherwise we would have missed it altogether because of the rain. Back at the camp again we saw type of deer that they have here from quite close.
The following morning after breaking camp and actually seeing Cotopaxi a bit better for a few minutes we drove in the bus for an hour up to the end of the road. It stops at 4600m just 200m below the hut and is in remarkably good condition. From there we again had brief glimpses of parts of the mountain before it closed in again all together. The 200m were hard going in lava ash and took me 45min. Silvana and Eric were much quicker and Fred slower, feeling the thin air. I was not as fit as I was for Monte Rosa or Kilimanjaro. After a short break we continued for another half-hour partly in snow and reached the edge of the glacier. Supposedly at 5000m but really only 4920m. Anyway higher than Mont Blanc. A 2 min. stop at this point was enough for everybody – except me. After lunch in the hut I talked to a young English group who had just climbed to the top taking 12 hours. The boys had reached the top and said that there was a lot of new soft snow which made it hard going, much harder than Kilimanjaro which they had also climbed. This did not surprise me. The girl turned back at 5600m which did not surprise me either looking at her. Driving back down the mountain the sun came out and we stopped again at the lake where it had rained before – my request, more bird filming by Silvana. We even had some better views further down and were able to take pictures.
Today we got up early and visited the Saquisili market at 6.00am before breakfast. The animal market is that early but the tourist market was still being set up. I did not buy anything, but did buy a small Indio painting today in the hotel grounds. Not in the programme was a lunchtime visit to a nearby hacienda which is built on and around an Inca ruin. In between it was a mission. Some of the walls are the closely fitting Inca type without any mortar between the stones. It now belongs to the daughter of a previous president of Ecuador and she gave us a personal guided tour. Lunch was very good and we talked to an American family who were taking one year travelling with their two quite small children. The remaining part of the afternoon was spent viewing the buildings and gardens of the impressive Hacienda La Cienega where we were staying. Alexander von Humbolt once stayed there. Later we heard that the programme was again subject to change and we would not be moving from camp to camp around Chimborazo with packhorses as planned. We were again to stay at a fixed camp accessible by road – or maybe at a lodge, a variant which everybody voted for.