We arrived after dark at the north entrance to Cotopaxi National Park. It had been a long day of driving. Crossing the equator at the coast, we had climbed the steep winding roads all the way through the central highlands. To make it worse, we had taken a wrong turn that cost us a couple of hours.
In total darkness we pulled off the dirt road and found a relatively level spot to park for the night. We had started the day at sea level and were now at an elevation of about 3,600m (11,800 ft). After changing into warmer clothes, setting up the stove and popping the top, we were both gasping in the thin air. We were in bed soon after dinner.
Not knowing exactly where we had parked the night before, we opened the window in the morning and stared wide-eyed at the view from our bed.
Unfortunately, the cold night and the low oxygen at this altitude gave the van a few troubles in the morning. It just wouldn’t start. So while I made some EFI adjustments, Bec wandered off to take some photos in the morning light.
With the van up and running again we headed into the national park and climbed the steep switchbacks up the side of the volcano, finally giving the van a break when we reached the carpark at 4,600m (15,000 ft).
You can just see the refuge hut in the mid-left of this photo. The faint blue dot far below it is a car in the carpark.
From the carpark we hiked up to the edge of the glacier. I find it so amazing that a glacier can be sustained year round so close to the equator, this volcano is massive. Needless to say, it was cold up there. The edge of the glacier is at about 5,000m (16,400 ft), I think this is the highest we’ve ever been with our feet on solid ground.
The refuge was under construction and these beast of burden were carrying most of the supplies.
After venturing up to the glacier we were both pretty wiped and had trouble staying awake in the warm sun as we cruised around the park exploring the tangled network of roads and trails. Every track held the promise of leading nowhere.
Choose your own adventure.
Coca leaf tea, supposedly this helps with the effects of altitude. Tastes alright too, kind of like green tea.
Since arriving in Ecuador we’ve been really happy to get back to van life the way we like it. By finding isolated campsites in beautiful wild places. This place was a real treat, it just might be the prettiest place that we’ve ever popped the top.
We camped in this hidden gully with only a small campfire and the changing moods of the mountain to entertain us.
The perfect campsite, from any angle.
Morning light in the mountains. Tough to beat.
From Cotopaxi we headed south and west again, passing through amazingly steep farmland and little indigenous farming villages. We really love the patchwork of the highland fields that look like a huge crumpled quilt lying over the land.
Scoping out the road. A bit slippery, but Oscar made it without hassle.
We made it to Laguna Quilotoa in the early afternoon with plenty of time to spare for a wander along the crater rim. We didn’t get far though, there’s something about this old lake filled volcano that just makes you want to stop and stare a while.
With permission from the locals, we slept that night in the carpark at the edge of the crater and had another amazing Ecuadorian meal. The meals are simple, but almost always come with a delicious hearty soup followed by a meat plate with rice, beans and salad.
Waking up to another chilly morning with another amazing sunrise, we made some brekkie in the van and hit the road once again heading for the coast.
Posted from: Cuenca, Ecuador