Thin air and a broken promise

In December 2010 I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It was an extraordinary experience and I’m very happy I made that decision to try once I got to the foot of the volcano in Moshi, where the snow-covered peak somehow seemed to be calling my name.

To watch the sun rise over the savanna when I finally reached the summit at 5895 meter above sea level, on the fourth day of climbing, was the kind of reward that makes you forget all the pain and overwhelming lack of energy for the moment and just think that it was all so incredibly worth it. Because it was, and I loved every second at the top of Africa. But then, eventually, you realize you have to make it all the way down. Too. Hehe. It was during this part of the trek I promised myself not to put myself through that kind of suffer again. That promise lasted for quite exactly two years, until I got to the foot of yet another spellbinding volcano…

This time it was Cotopaxi in central Ecuador who I can almost swear repeatedly whispered my name, as soon as I got the first glimpse of it… I hooked up with Alex, a happy, British teacher, (over?)full of energy, and in the end we took off as a group of nine guys, five mountain guides, and me.

IMG_2196Packed like sardines in a box while trying to “sleep” before the midnight ascent. That was five interesting hours, lying listening to different sorts of noice, giggling and fighting for the space (we all averaged on around an impressive 2 minutes of sleep).

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Crampons on.

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Cotopaxi is a lot more technical than Kilimanjaro as you reach the glaciated area already after an hour or so. However, once again; painful, e x h a u s t i n g, frrreezing, but so worth it – a totally stunning hike.

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As we reached the summit in the early morning light we got greeted by a huge ash plume on the horizon, coming from the neighboring volcano of Tunghurangua near Baños (where I’d been mountain biking a few days earlier..). The eruption had been starting only one or two hours before we got up there. Quite a reward. I forgot the feeling of being near collapse and smiled. Giggled. Then laughed out load. Gave Alex a big victory hug. And THEN collapsed for a while (while admiring the view)

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Observe the ash plume behind us!!

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To keep the story about the way back short, I can say we made it down……… eventually. Dead but yet so alive.

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IMG_2319IMG_2332IMG_2318IMG_2366IMG_2374IMG_2377IMG_2381IMG_2387Alex in pain. The refuge (yellow building) so close but still so far!!

About three hours, one hamburger and a shower later I was standing at the roof top of my hostel in Latacunga, looking at the summit from the distance, feeling nothing but satisfaction and happiness. It’s amazing what the human body can accomplish, and how fast it can recover.

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PS. The summit of Cotopaxi is to be found at 5897 meters above sea level, thus I beat my previous record with a thrilling 2 meters, woho, victory…

Enough for now.

Ecuador, chapter two

After eventually leaving Cuenca behind I found myself on a bus towards Ambato, and died a little from looking through my window (bonito). Approximately 3249 times I felt like just grabbing my backpack, jump off the bus and start walking instead, to be able to take in more. In Ambato some excellent Ecuadorian hospitality was waiting for me though, so I resisted… Even though Ecuadorians tend not to take time too seriously, I figured arriving five weeks too late would have been a bit rude.

Ambato and TungurahuaAmbato

Hungry lamaHungry lama in Ambato

Julio, and some Ecuadorian yummiesLocals know the best – Julio introducing me to some Ecuadorian yummies.

BañosBañosNext I was off to Baños, a small town tucked in between high green hills, at the foot of the big Tunguranghua volcano. This place draws a lot of tourists due to its reputation of being Ecuador’s adventure destination number one. I mostly drank (real!) coffee though, except from flying around on a mountain bike one afternoon, and spent the nights clubbing with new found friends. Good fun.

IMG_2123Bike with a viewAbove: my bike two seconds before the wind caught it, threw it off the edge and messed up the back wheel. I got to experience the hard way that if you have a problem it really is your problem on the road between Baños and Puyo. Not like the good old days back in Australia when all you had to do was to step out of your vehicle, look generally blond and helpless and have a handy man standing next to you within five minutes, eager to show off his skills. This time I was alone!!! I figured it out though, for those who wonder, eventually : )

Dancing chica

There was a big parade one of the days, to celebrate the anniversary of the city. It turned the place into a temporary ghost town, except from where the action was at the moment.

Dancing in the rain

It started to rain through the sun as these crazy dancers passed me, it’s all about timing, ey?

Dancing in the rain

Over and out.