Quito, Amazonia, Otavalo
Cotopaxi, Atacames
October 1998
Part II

Not on but at the Volcano

I did not waste any time after Otavalo and birthday celebration. So next day, a Sunday, I am on the road to the Parque Nacional Cotopaxi, again with some fellow students. This time not on our own but with a guide.

He was a real Indian and studied in Düsseldorf in Germany for many years. His German was perfect. He asked us, since we were learning Spanish, whether he should explain everything in Spanish or in German. I voted for German, because I didn't want to miss any interesting information I may not have understood in Spanish, since I was a beginner.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

With our Indian guide trying to climb the Cotopaxi
The Cotopaxi is with 5897m the highest active volcano in the world. There had been many violent eruptions in the past centuries. Three times even a town was wiped out. Three times the same town rebuilt at the same place. Stupid. We only hoped that the volcano will stay put while we were there.

After we passed the entrance to the Parque Nacional Cotopaxi we were dropped off on the plains at an altitude of 3800m. What a beautiful countryside. We walked along a creek and around a small lake. The view up to the peak of the Cotopaxi and another one, the Rumiñahui, but with 4712m not so high, was fantastic.
Walking over the plains in 3800m altitude
There was supposed to be an interesting wildlife in the park according to the guidebook. But we didn't see neither one of the many named bird species nor any mammals. Maybe if you camp around here you may find a rabbit, a deer or even the spectacled bear. Also a Puma is supposed to roam around here. The vegetation is scarce, no wonder at this altitude. But I was happy to see some kind of a thistle.
Unique fauna Seldom flora
We are not only here for the thistle and the deer but to be little mountaineers. Ok, let's begin even if the air was already a little bit thin. Walking on the flat plain was no pain. But now the ascension was harder than I ever imagined. Not that I felt the lack of air, but enough oxygen was definitely not there. Our guide was jumping ahead, because he was used to that. He had more oxygen carrying red blood cells than anybody else.
Why not release some weight before climbing any further, but didn't help
Then I encountered a sign announcing how many more meters to climb. But why couldn't we drive up to the parking lot to get closer to the top. Ok, we are real tough guys and need some exercise. Using a motor bike would be another choice. It looks adventurous, but it is really very dangerous.
Couldn't we have driven to the parking lot or couldn't we have joined a motocross?
The peak in the snow looks so beautiful and so close, but it's another 1000m or so from the refugio, which is the end of our tour. I didn't want to go any higher, because I was afraid of the avalanche danger. That was an excuse of course, because I really was afraid of the altitude sickness.

I didn't know before that lacking oxygen when you need it most slows you really down. I have not experienced anything like that. I will never try to climb the Mount Everest. Two German guys we met, though, wanted to go all the way up to the summit. Good luck to them.
The summit of Cotopaxi with snow on the top. This guy intends to go to the top even in the fog
Finally the refugio I reached No killing feet but some rest I need
Should I further ascend? Better not: it's too peligroso
After the ascension the descent, thanks God. What a nice feeling going down. I just felt like newly born. Also looking down to the countryside is more awarding than looking always up the path in front.
Walking down was much easier while admiring more the countryside

Not at but on the Equator

On another day during my last week in Ecuador I made it one afternoon to step on the equator, or La Mitad del Mundo, which means the middle of the world (not the middle of the earth). It was located in the village of San Antonio, just about 22km north of Quito.

I took a public bus, also called the Mitad del Mundo bus. But unfortunately I missed the stop close to the entrance. When I saw the monument receding I screamed "pare, pare" to get out but it was too late and I had to walk back from the next stop through some settlements and along a wall.
Missed the middle of the world Getting closer and closer to the equator
In the middle of the complex and middle of the equator is a 30-meter-high stone monument topped by a brass globe. This really was a nice place to walk around and back and forth between the southern and the northern hemisphere.

You can also take an elevator to the top of the monument to look down. Then you have to walk down the spiral stairs with exhibitions of the Indian culture on every other platform.

There is even more to see in some of the surrounding buildings: A model of colonial Quito and a planetarium. And of course many souvenir shops and ... a good restaurant.
And finally in the compound the equator monument I found
While walking on the equator line I was cut between north and south
Ok, and who was responsible for all this. It was Charles-Marie de La Condamine, who's measurements proved in the year 1736 that this is really the equator. His measurements also gave rise to the metric system.

Not in but at the Pacific

My studies came to an end on Friday the second week. After a 36 hours crash-crash course in Spanish I was ready to leave for the beach. But where? I read about a promising nice place at the north coast, Atacames. How to get there? Next city was just 30km up north: Esmeraldas. I tried to get a flight but there was none on Friday afternoon, only in the morning.

To still save time I took the night bus to Esmeralda. I was warned not to arrive there by night, though, because it was supposed to be a dangerous place in the dark.

So I rather left Quito around midnight in order to arrive in Esmeralda in the morning. But I was also warned not to go to the Terminal Terreste de Cumandá in the middle of the night. Anyway, the bus terminal was almost deserted and I did not see any crook around.

But I was also warned, that some night buses on this route had been robbed. I took the risk and was lucky not to be woken up at gunpoint. So I safely arrived in Esmeraldas, where I took a local bus to get to Atacames.
Finally arriving at the sea side then walking to the water straight
There were many hotels and guesthouses right in the street along the beach. No problem to get a room, also very cheap. After I checked into one, I walked to the beach. And I was not disappointed: Clean white sand and blue water, not too much crowded, except for the vendor's tricycles.
To see the Pacific at the town of Atacames
With many vendors all around and ice cream eating chicks and machos
Though, many young people are relaxing in beach chairs and in hammocks. It looks like that they need some rest to treat their hangovers. The beach parties really seemed to start after dark in the many beach bars offering all kinds of drinks and cocktails. Drinking juices and coconut water during the day is ok.
More folks in hammocks A preferred hangout
Juices, drinks, and many cocktails It's dangerous to get drunk upstairs
If nobody buys a coconut then drink your own No good business because coconuts are abound
But I didn't have to and I didn't want to relax, yet. I rather wanted to get away from the tourists and wandered down south while passing some quiet resort until the end of the sandy beach. This stretch could have been nice too but to clean it up of all the driftwood would be quite a job.
This beach hangout is empty and quiet Because this beach is not so nice
After passing all the debris I reached a rock and wanted to know what's behind. I read in my guidebook, that you only can get around during low tide. So maybe I am not coming back the same day.
Passing a piece of driftwood then what's behind the rock
Then I saw it: a fishing village. Its name: Sùa. Even with quite a new buildings. Also some guesthouses are around here, if you want to stay with the locals. There will also be a chance to go out fishing. Maybe an alternative to the high life in Atacames.
No much tourist business but fishing generates a little income here
But the people have still fun And there are many fans
to watch the kick of their girl against the other soccer team
The other team was from Esmeraldas A house at the street to Esmeraldas
So, the people I met were all very friendly. I didn't see anybody who might be a criminal. But I was warned not to walk around the rock alone because I may be robbed. Thus it was definitely not advisable to get to Atacames back around the rock in the dark, even if the tide was still low. Instead I stopped the bus going to Esmeralda on the main road and in 10 minutes I was back safe in Atacames.

Next day I was back on the road again, this time to really head back to Esmeraldas. This is the capital of the province of Esmeraldas and is the largest port in northern Ecuador. Actually there is nothing worthwhile to do for a tourist. But for me everything is worthwhile to see.
Good bye, girls in Atacames Good day, Esmerelda in Esmeraldas
Flesh and meat for sale But the music is for free
So I walked around and took a look at the people and how the lived and worked. They also were very friendly too, but nobody knows what they will do to you in a dark alley.

Actually, everything looked so peaceful. In the park I relaxed a little bit until it was time to go to the Air Tame office close by. From there I did get a lift to the airport to fly back to Quito, where I arrived safely without any incident, neither being robbed nor with an emergency landing.
Waiting for my lift to the airport Good bye, Hispano America
Ok, that was Ecuador, though only a very small part of it. I could have seen and done a lot more. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more about all the places I have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or in the internet.

Final comment: Yes I really liked Ecuador, despite being made afraid of the many crime warnings. It was a pity that I did not have more time to stay longer in the places I have visited or to visit more places, especially Galapagos. Maybe next time.

© WEW Tours

Created February 2011