Volcanoes of Ecuador

(Warning: there may be an over-reference to altitude levels at times)


There they were, the Andes, stretching before us with volcanoes rising on both side. Some snow-capped, others actively spewing smoke, yet all magnificent or so we were told. It was rainy season once again and the fog had descended to the point we could barely see the road.  However, the cool temperatures and availability of the mountains have made hiking a popular activity in Ecuador.  So there was plenty of time for these magnificent buggers to show themselves to us.

First attempt: Volcano Cayambe, the highest peak on the equator and the only place with permanent snow cover along the equator line. To clarify, the attempt was never to reach the peak but the glacier itself, as the remainder of the climb would require some serious equipment or so I would like to imagine. Seniora Astrid did most of the hiking, but we came along for the ride.


The scenery was wild, dominated by large, thick grasses, high altitude cows and lichens, also clouds which would eventually deem our hike over. However, we would not be defeated so easily. We descended to 3400 meters (down from 4200m) and found a cow patch where we bundled in for the night with our new blankets.


Keeping warm


The morning was cloudless and sunny.  This was the day.  We jumped back in the car and prepared for our ascent.  We made it to 4600m in about an hour of hiking (actual hiking and ok it was only from 4200m).   Once again the clouds or fog that kept us from seeing and climbing these wondrous mountains descended down to make for an eerie feel.  With no one around except for the thin air that knocked my breath out with every step and the incoming blanket of whiteness that heightened my level of claustrophobia, the non sighting of the glacier came to a quick end.


Back at the car we consoled ourselves with a breakfast of champions which was originally planned after a rewarding sighting of the snow capped volcano. Still, it was delicious and it sure made the pretty cows stare at us in envy.


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Luckily or unluckily Cotopaxi (another volcano we dreamed of seeing) was apparently closed. Months ago, it’s activity levels increased to call for a state of Emergency in the area and therefore there was no climbing to be done. But not far off there was another. This one with the attraction being the crater filled lake.   First attempt at seeing the crater was once again disrupted with clouds (no surprises there). However, we spent the night by the crater (3800m) and made numerous trips to finally see it reveal itself.

The Great Quilotoa Crater


We decided if there was ever a hike worth doing it was the one around the rim of this crater.  I woke up early, with what felt like my skull squeezing out my brain. A five hour hike would not be on the agenda today.  So with what felt like dejavu, we jumped in the van and descended to 2900 meters where my brain would slowly recover to it’s normal position.

We settled into the back of Llullu Lama hostel that was to be our home for a few days as we scheemed our return to the creator to complete the hike. Luckily for us this tiny town was surrounded by lots of hills that would be used to whip us in shape in the two days.



By the second day we were making our own trails as we bushwacked up hills only to end up at the very same spot we went the day before.  So in two days we hiked the exact same hill.  By the end Brett needed a spa day to relieve his toe pain.  Then proceeded to eat 4 pieces of cake after dinner.  I wondered whether Ella and I should be worried about Brett’s hunger cravings following the upcoming five hour hike.

Spa day



I did not get to find out, as our plans changed, as fast as the weather on these mountains it seemed.   We found ourselves in Banos rather than hiking the rim.  Once again we were too late for the erupting volcano that a few days ago was spilling red, molten lava down its sides.  But we settled in across from the volcano to wait until the fog cleared to see at least one of these mysterious creatures.

Brettolomus swinging at the edge of the world: waiting for the Tungurahua Volcano to show itself.




While I blogged away and Brett cooked up some home made tomatoe sauce to last us a week, the volcano probably showed itself numerous times, but we were busy.



Colombia: The Road to Ecuador


Colombia’s colonial towns preoccupied much of our time.  As we made our way south on the Pan-American highway we strayed off a few times to visit some non colonial places and relax our senses in the countryside.

Town of Jardin
Each place was branded by a different pattern of chairs and tables
Camping out at the trout farm near Jardin

From there we took the scenic route across the mountains. At a max speed of 20 km/hr it took a few hours to cross the mountains. No one but us seemed to take the same or opposite path and we wondered if there is a memo we missed about this particular route. Especially as we started coming across past landslides and I was given a new job of watching out for falling rock.

The start of the mountain path
On the other side, signs of human life start to show

Once over the mountains we drove until Salento, where we pulled up to a place that was housing four other overlanders. We were pumped as in Central America it was quite rare to meet other overlanders.  So we parted with our evening plans of movie watching provided by free wifi and opted for a more social night.  This lead to new friends from which we did not part until two days later when we headed south and they north.

Taking a hike with Katie and Chad
At the end of the Valle de Cocora hike
Grooming time back at camp
Feeding stop

As we headed further south towards Ecuador across the Cordillera mountain range the terrain once again dried up, the roads got progressively worse and the police quadrupled the weapons and protective gear they wore.


Each bridge crossing was controlled by army on both ends giving a thumbs up as we passed by.  We happily returned the gesture thinking how strangely American this seemed, but after a bit of research we learned that we have entered the FARC lands of Cauca region and the thumbs up was a signal for safe crossing. We were warned by Columbians to keep the doors locked, windows up and not stop for anyone. However with all the delicious street munchies, protest and construction, that proved next to imposible.


None the less, we made it to the little town of Chachagui before heading to our next border crossing the following day. To end a few shots from the road.



Las Lajas Church