Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Photo Update: Latacunga

The town of Latacunga itself is quite small and not terribly pretty or nice, but it's a great place to stay if you want to go to Cotopaxi National Park or Quilotoa Crater Lake, which is exactly what I did. Also, the hostel where I stayed was really nice. 
Quilotoa is about an hour and a half away by bus and kind of in the middle of nowhere, but since President Correa did some volunteer work there, he's put money into developing it into a tourist destination. There's a new highway being built and quite a few hostels at the top of the lake--where you can choose to take a trail down to the water and then come back up, a trail around the lake, or a longer trail to go to nearby villages. 
The lake was beautiful, but I was a little disappointed because due to a flat bus tire, road construction, and the general slowness of bus-riding, we didn't get a change to walk around the lake, only down to it. Still, it was a beautiful spot for a picnic and llama-friending and we all (my German friends and a few Americans) really enjoyed it. There are horses for rent at the bottom because the hike back up is pretty steep, but we didn't take them. 
The best part was probably the fact that the buses were full so we had to take a super full camioneta all the way back to Latacunga. Camionetas are pickups that will take you places for a small fee. Somewhere between a taxi and hitch-hiking I guess. It was hilarious--there were four foreigners and three Ecuadorians squished into the cab of the pickup and about half a dozen more in the back. We listened to the Backstreet Boys full volume and drove probably 80 km per hour with kids in the back (and it was raining). 
 What a beaut!

One of the not-so-wild llamas, who was interested in our picnic.
Horses being watered at the bottom.

Our trip to Cotopaxi was more successful time-wise, but it was freezing cold and raining when we got to the park. But as we drove up--in another camioneta, this time with more room--the rain turned to snow. The wind died down and sun came out about halfway up to the refuge. It was still pretty tough though--hiking at 5,000 meters isn't exactly a walk in the park. Lisa and Joe (my Germans) both got altitude sickness and stopped at the refuge while Trenna (an American I met at the hostel) and I continued on. 
I think I already explained some about Cotopaxi in an older post, so I'm not going to elaborate much here. It's one of the most popular tourist destinations around Quito and for good reason. I loved it and I want to summit it now. 
 Joe and Lisa bundled up and hiking. 

Just above the refuge. 
 Glacier viewing--doesn't it look like Mars? 
Volcanic rocks!
And when the sun came out, even more Mars-like. 
Oh hey, glacier. (I walked on it too). I think it was at about 5,300 m (17,000+ ft.). 
 Running down. 
Lisa and I making guacamole at the hostel later. 

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