It was high, so high. Okay, it wasn’t THAT high, 3.880m for us – the summit of Cotopaxi is 5.897 m – so we were almost there. But they didn’t really build a nice bike path up there yet. It took us three days to get up into the Cotopaxi National Park. Three days of terrible roads (rough cobble stones took turns with sandy gravel tracks), gusting winds that blew us off our bikes and freezing temperatures (frost on the tent walls).
But the views of the volcano – once it peaked around the clouds) and the beautiful landscape up there made it all worth it. For me it was also the escape from all the noise and busy roads and cities into nature and solitude that made this worth the effort. Nyle had a few days of feeling ill and very low on energy so it was quite hard on him, especially as the grades on some of those bad roads were just unridable for us on our loaded touring bikes which meant a lot of pushing.
Our tent has held up pretty well in some strong winds so far, ready for Patagonian winds. The first windy night I slept inside my sleeping bag with my puffy, hat and gloves on and was still chilly – I am not ready yet. I think the wind chill was minus 1000.. The next night we thought we found the perfect camp spot: An area officially marked as camp spot (no wild camping in the park allowed), it was sheltered from the wind, had a bath room and cooking shelter and – as it was mid week – no one around. Brilliant! Well - until the Ecuadorian Boy and Girl scouts showed up. TWO bus loads full of teenagers who set up camp five meters beside us. Well, our timing is just terrible at times! It was however quite entertaining to watch them trying to ‘survive in the wilderness’, like burning a pair of pants and grass in order to cook rice.
Eventually we reached the ‘mountain highway’ that lead us back down into the valley to the city of Latacunga. So far Ecuador has been amazing for finding alternative routes to the busy PanAmerican highway. Sure, often these tertiary roads are rough and in bad shape – but they pleasantly wind their way through quiet villages (except the stupid dog gangs that love to chase us down the road) and have little to no traffic on them. It takes twice or three times as long and often is physically a lot harder with steep climbs but it is just so much more enjoyable.
After Latacunga we were off to Baños – Ecuador’s touristy adventure capital. The ride there – again on backroads – was a long and tough one but offered quite stunning views to the many volcanoes around here. Baños sits underneath to the volcano Tungurahua (5.016m) which provides heat for the many hot springs here – hence the name. We haven’t heard so much English in a long time and the amount of little, packed souvenir shops is crazy here – but it also makes for some nice coffee shops with real muffins and espresso machines. Will be doing some hot spring chilling and water fall viewing over the next days here until we continue our way South towards Peru.
PS: If you think about heading to Costa Rica, skip that and come to Colombia and Ecuador instead! Way more awesome, super friendly people, cool artisan craftsmanship, cheap, and beautiful landscapes! We will for sure be back here one day – but with an engine for those steep hills and lots of space to collect souvenirs.