Stunning is one of many words I could use to describe the Andes Mountains of Ecuador. It seems with every bend of the road we find ourselves in awe. Maybe we’re so impressed because we had zero expectations going into this road trip. Or, maybe it really is this spectacular.
So far, our experiences have been with the people and the cities. We’ve roamed around small towns, seen captivating cathedrals, stood in front of larger than life art installations. We wandered the streets of the capital city and even faced off with the locals for Carnival (not for the faint of heart).
Now we’re going to the next level…at least in elevation. Prepare your lungs and lace up your hiking boots, because we’re taking on volcanoes, craters and glaciers. This is an adventure chock full of natures eye candy.
If that wasn’t me in the video, I wouldn’t believe the turquoise water was real, much less that we managed to hike all those miles at that altitude. Zero to 12,000+ feet had us feeling a little like fish out of water; dried out and gasping for air. Luckily, we had plenty of visual distractions to keep us focused.
Kate mentioned struggling with altitude and passing out. She did indeed. We didn’t film that moment for two reasons.
- We were focused on taking care of Kate and making sure she was OK. Kate was correct when she said we had more practice. We spent years trekking around Alaska, the Yukon, Canadian Rockies, Colorado Rockies, Californian Sierras and the list goes on. We’re very familiar with altitude and know our bodies limits.
- Kate is a strong Afrikaans woman who was so determined to finish the loop around Quilotoa, she pushed herself a little too hard towards the end. She was just short of a sprint. Her mind was set but her body protested and forced a break. Frustration can run high in those moments. No way we were going to top that off with a camera in her face. We sat there for a while sipping on water and swapping stories about close calls on adventures. After a bit she dusted herself off and was good to go. All smiles and high spirited Katie once again.
The whole Cotopaxi region is rugged, extreme and dramatically beautiful. We struggled to pack our things and move along so quickly (partly because our bodies we’re aching). It’s days and experiences like these that remind us that we live on the most amazing planet.
We wholeheartedly recommend a trip through the Andes Mountains and specifically to Quilotoa and Cotopaxi. So, here are a few thoughts from our adventure that may help plan your adventure.
The rim hike was fun but if we would have had the time (and no furry paws in tow) we would have done the Quilotoa loop. It’s a self-guided multi-day hike that either starts or ends at the Quilotoa lake and takes you through the indigenous villages.
Best part is, you don’t have to carry a giant backpack or even a tent, because each night is spent at a different hostel. We didn’t go on this adventure so I won’t dive into the details but would encourage you to research it. There are lots of great blogs that come up on “Hiking the Quilotoa Loop”. That said, if you’re like us and only have a day, then the rim trail is a stellar hike. If you’re flexible on dates try and head this way on a Saturday, that’s how we stumbled upon the hyper local, and cultural wonder that is the Zumbahua market (featured in this video).
Cotopaxi National Park
If you’re part mountain goat like Jason, the trip to the top of Cotopaxi sounds epic and can be done in a (long) day from the refuge. One of the many adventures we will absolutely take on when we make our way back. It is required to hire a guide and you’ll need a day (or more) at the refuge to acclimate to the altitude. Or even better, go and hike Quilotoa and climb the Illiniza Volcanoes as a “warm up”…or at least that is Jason’s plan.
Where We Stayed
We choose our little hostel because it seemed to be a good middle ground for the Cotopaxi area but had us spending more time in the car than needed. In hindsight, we would have stayed in Quilotoa and then at the Refuge on Cotopaxi (but I’m not sure they’re pet friendly). The Rondador Hostel was all about the pets, just ask our neighbor.
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Sailing Road Trip Report – Quilotoa & Cotopaxi
To see our full map with interactive pins, click here: gonewiththewynns.com/map
- Dates – February 17 – 18, 2018
- Road Miles Traveled – 80
- Rental Car – $29 per day. We rented a car in Manta because it was half the price of renting in Bahia (where our boat is anchored).