Day 9: Saquisili Rural Markets and Trekking on Volcano Cotopaxi

It was in the stopover in a small hotel right next to the entrance to Cotopaxi National Park where fate had decided I should spend the coldest night ever of my whole life. Despite preparations, like wearing a sleeping suit and lighting the rooms fireplace burning all wood provided as well as running the air heater (which in my room was unfortunately only working on half speed) I still did not dare to leave my bed at night to put on more stuff as it would certainly have shock frozen myself. It was after breakfast and the expectation of a hot shower that finally got me out of bed and blood temperatures back to normal finally.

Unfortunately this day I was (as several group members) as well affected with the height disease causing headache and affecting your digestion as we were constantly staying at about 3.000 m for several days at the time.

As we had to skip a planned program part yesterday due to a diversion of traffic we took the rural / Indian market exploration this morning at a town called Saquisili. The fist part was the animal market – interesting, embarrassing and unethical, but under Ecuadorian circumstances also normal how animals were treated. The market was segmented into cattle, pigs, sheep, lamas and goats and the locals were everything but gingerly trading their animals. The tour continued to the food part where we could see all types of local fruits and could prepare a nice vitamin mix for the upcoming days.

We then entered Cotopaxi National Park and a local guide joined us for the tour giving us some details about the activity of this volcano, with a total height of 5.897 m being Ecuador’s second highest mountain and the height at active volcano. It has a beautifully perfect funnel shape (comparable to the Fujiyama near Tokio) which we could luckily enjoy due to the clear and sunny day.

Before taking the ascent we had possibility to acclimatize a bit at least during a walk around a close lagoon. Then it was time – we drove to the parking lot at 4.500 m and started our hike. You certainly totally underestimate the power you need to climb the 300 m to the shelter hut at 4.800 m and the weirded stomac feeling didn’t make things easier. Anyway step for step and slowly but surely we made it to have a spectacular view on the surrounding mountains and low hanging clouds – totally wonderful! The descent was an easy 20 minutes thing as there was a steeper track with loose ground allowing you to almost surf down.

Our habitat for tonight was the famous Tambopaxi hut where also Reinhold Messmer and has team resided when preparing for the Cotopaxi ascent.

Boris Kuster