Posted by: tim ellis | December 28, 2008

Ecuador – Tuesday 8th July, 2008

I am met just before 8 by Susanna, who will be my guide today for the trip to Cotopaxi, and Carlito, who is our driver. We take the “East Road” out of Quito on to the Pan-American highway that runs from Alaska to Ushuaia, stopping a couple of times for photo opportunities looking down at Quito, stretching down the valley, and, theoretically across the next valley, but all we can see there is cloud…

We turn off the highway on to a dirt track through farms and quarries to the entrance to the Cotopaxi park, where you have to pay the $10 entrance fee, before continuing down the dirt track until you reach the actual start of the park itself. There is a little museum here with some maps, models, and a stuffed condor (we don’t see any live condor, but they are quite rare in Ecuador anyway).  

Back in to the car and we drive on to somewhere in the region of 4000m above sea level. We can see the snow-capped summit through the clouds, though these keep rolling in, and the mountain appears and disappears. There is a light drizzle but we decide to walk anyway, and it soon clears up (though the cloud remains) and we walk back down looking at the various Andean plants. On a clear day, apparently, you can see Quito, but not today! It is decidedly cool, especially in the wind. The thermometer in the car is hovering around the 8C mark, so we get in and drive down to lake Limpiopungo. 

There are some ducks, andean lapwings and andean gulls on the lake, and as I scan with my binoculars I see a chicken-like bird with a pale flash on it’s head – “There’s something over there that looks like some sot of coot” I tell Susanna. It turns out I’m right – it is an andean coot!

The cloud is closing in again, so we set off for lunch at Hosteria La Cienega, an old colonial farm that now serves tourists with a very impressive restaurant. After lunch we stroll around the gardens and visit the chapel (A sign of a wealthy farm was that they could afford a priest for the workers).

We return to Quito through some quite heavy rain, and Quito itself looks like it has been raining for most of the day.

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