Wednesday, February 24, 2016
After our hot and extremely humid days at sea, these two mountain people were excited to get to Cotopaxi National Park. We flew back from the Galápagos Islands to land at about 6:30 p.m. in Quito. Rather than waste a night in Quito, we hired an expensive ($65) taxi ride directly from the airport to the Secret Garden Hostal near Cotopaxi National Park, a two hour drive. The road, the only one to the national park, impressed me as absolutely terrible. Rather than pavement, the road was surfaced with flatish volcanic cobbles. I guess there are plenty of them around, but wow, how bumpy and hard on vehicular suspension. Anyway, by the time we arrived at the Hostal it was nine p.m. The semi-manager Victor showed us in through the the main living room, where Burk, one of the volunteers (volunteers are travelers who work a little in exchange for free room and board) was giving a type of concert with his acoustic guitar while 15 or so guests were singing along to songs by Neil Young and Indigo Girls. Between the remoteness of the Hostal, the music, and the dreadlocks and/or lack of bras on the 20-something guests, we felt we had stumbled into a hippy commune. As we signed into the Hostal register, it was clear that the typical guest was much younger than us; of the 40 or so names on the pages we could see, there were exactly 3 over age 35. But Victor made us feel at home and the cook even whipped us up some veggie fajitas, followed by tres leches cake for dessert. We had to chose which activity we wanted to do the following day: horseback riding, bike riding and trout fishing in the park, or hiking up the mountain behind us. We chose the big hike, although I had extreme trepidation about A. being able to keep up with the 20ish year olds, and B. testing my new knee with a big hike 2 months after surgery. Victor showed us to our cabin and we settled in for a fitful night of sleeping at 11,300 feet elevation with the windows open and a small fire in the wood stove.