Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hosteria La Cienega

After our exertions on Cotopaxi, we were all hungry and ready for a break.  
It took awhile to drive back down all the bumpy dirt roads since we'd been up near the refugio on Cotopaxi, but once we turned back onto the Pan-American Highway, it was a short ride to the place we'd be lunching: Hosteria La Cienega.

Beautiful sight: the driveway is lined with eucalyptus.
Eucalyptus aren't native to Ecuador, but we saw various kinds
of eucalyptus trees all over the place.

This symbol repeated on the backs of the dining room chairs.

Hosteria La Cienega

Eucalyptus trees

Mr. Hunter rests on some eucalyptus leaves.

Naranjilla juice --
and a naranjilla fruit beside the glass

We all ordered soups.  I had vegetable soup.
And there's some more salsa de aji in the middle.

At Hosteria La Cienega,
they served a big bowl of popcorn to go with our soups!
It was tasty.  This is our guide's bowl of ceviche.

After our late lunch, we walked around the grounds of La Cienega, 
which is a hotel as well as a restaurant.  We stepped into the chapel, wandered around the gardens, and even got to look into one of the hotel rooms.

Mr. Hunter and one of the carved chapel doors.

The chapel

Mr. H liked the papery bark on this tree.

The bust of Mr. Hunter
poses with a bust of explorer and naturalist, Alexander von Humboldt.
Von Humboldt slept at La Cienega in 1802.

This couch in one of the sitting rooms
 reminded me of one of my favorite picture books:
Spectacles, by Ellen Raskin.
More on that in a separate post.

Our guide pretended that he was going to add Mr. Hunter to the fire!
I should point out that we saw a number of guests hanging out in different sitting rooms,
and more than one of them mentioned that they were COLD.
(Haciendas can be chilly -- hence the need for fireplaces and stoves.)

Hosteria La Cienega
Cotopaxi Province
June 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Cotopaxi Climb

After two doses of coca tea and various breaks to get our bodies accustomed to the altitude, we finally made it up to the snow line on Cotopaxi.  From there, we got out of the car and started our climb.  

Here comes the snow!

Our guide told us to carry as little as possible (though our water bottles were a must), so we grabbed our cameras, and I tucked Mr. Hunter into my jacket pocket.  He emerged for a couple of poses, even thought the cold and the wind and the sleet and the snow made taking pictures a bit of a challenge.  Those of us who'd had the tea avoided altitude sickness, but the climb was still strenuous, and we all got quite a soaking.

Standing together at 15,456 feet

GPS proof

Out of the car and ready to start the climb.

Early on in the climb

A snippet of the weather at 15,500 feet:


15,546 feet up Cotopaxi Volcano
(which rises 19,347 ft)
Cotopaxi National Park
June 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hall of Fame: The Hunter is Hunted

What's going on here?  
Is somebody getting ready to pounce?

Steve suggested I pose Mr. Hunter on the Lake Limpiopungo sign, but of course it was SO windy. It took a minute to get Mr. H to balance there, and even then he was in danger of toppling at any moment, so Steve crouched nearby, ready to catch Mr. Hunter if he fell.  And he didn't realize that the first shot I took of the scene was a wide shot.  

When I was downloading my photos back at the hotel that night, I saw this picture and cracked up.  It looked so much like Steve was getting ready to attack Mr. Hunter.  

Mr. Hunter looks happy,
even if he is about to blow over.

A slightly steadier perch.

Lake Limipiopungo
Cotopaxi National Park
June 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stopping to Smell the Flowers

Clusters of pale purple flowers like crocuses grew near Lake Limpiopungo.   
Mr. Hunter stopped to admire them, but posing with them was a challenge. 

That's my finger there, trying to hold Mr. Hunter steady.  Even though he was posing on the ground, the wind was intense enough that Mr. H would blow over unless I held him.

Lake Limpiopungo
Cotopaxi National Park
June 2011

Big Sky at Lake Limpiopungo

As we made our way up towards our Cotopaxi climb, we'd stop occasionally to spend a little time getting our bodies acclimated to the progressively higher altitude.  At Lake Limiopungo, our guide let us out to take a walk, and to enjoy the scenery.  The most amazing thing about this place: the big sky.

A shot of my brother and the big sky, for a little perspective.

On one side loomed the Cotopaxi Volcano; on the other, Ruminahui Volcano.

Hints of Cotopaxi

About Volcan Ruminahui

The cloud in the middle
was shaped like a little ghost.

A lovely place.

Lake Limpiopungo
Cotopaxi National Park
June 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Our Destination: A Little Climb on Cotopaxi

After we drank our second servings of coca tea, we ducked into the small museum nearby and then braved the cold again to look up at what was visible of Cotopaxi.  We were headed for a brief but intense hike up there at the snow line.

Map of Cotopaxi

The museum had some information on the history of the Cotopaxi volcano, as well as some of the creatures of the region that had been preserved.  Mr. Hunter posed with this Andean Condor.

A model of Cotopaxi.

Cotopaxi National Park
June 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mate de Coca

Mr. Hunter continues to prepare for the high altitude.
This second serving of coca tea was tea made from actual coca leaves.

This cup of tea was served in a much colder location.  
The inelegant but apt phrase "butt cold" comes to mind.

About coca tea...

My mom was especially intrigued to see that mate de coca might help alleviate arthritis pain.  The coca tea was not very tasty, but it certainly seemed to help ward off altitude sickness.

Cotopaxi National Park
June 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Find Mr. Hunter

Can you spot Mr. Hunter near the Parque Nacional Cotopaxi sign?

We were at #1 on the map (Control Caspi) when we took these photos.  
Our next stop: #4... Laguna Limpiopungo

Cotopaxi National Park
June 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

At the Cotopaxi Indigenous Market

Our next stop in preparation for our little Cotopaxi climb was just outside the entrance of Cotopaxi National Park, where there was an indigenous market.  We walked around to get ourselves further acclimated to the altitude, and we also did a bit of shopping.

I bought a scarf made by this lady, whose name was Laura.
She seemed to be intrigued but also puzzled by Mr. Hunter.

Trying on warm hats --
which will be useful when we get onto the mountain.

Cute hat, Mom!

Mr. Hunter hangs out with some other carved faces.

Cotopaxi National Park
June 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Shaggy Donkeys and Llamas

We turned off the Pan-American Highway and started driving down a bumpy dirt road that led to Cotopaxi National Park.  One farm we passed was home to some very shaggy donkeys.

Such satisfactory shagginess!!

The llamas started to scoot away while we were busy admiring the donkeys, but I did manage to capture a sweet (at least I think it was sweet) moment between two llamas in the herd.

Mr. Hunter and the llama farm,
with llamas in the distance
outside Cotopaxi National Park
June 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Making Friends in Ecuador: Elvita

Our guide, Wilson, drove us south along the Pan-American Highway to get to Cotopaxi National Park. The plan for day two included climbing a bit of Cotopaxi volcano,  and in order to prepare for the altitude we stopped at a couple of places in order to drink some coca tea.  

We met Elvita at the first coca tea stop, which was basically a convenience store/gas station. She spoke no English, and I have a very few straggling words of Spanish, but with Wilson's help, she and I ended up having a nice little conversation about how beautiful her country is.  I remember the words "linda" and "hermosa" coming up, which reminded me of place names like Linda Vista and Hermosa Beach.  

Elvita and Mr. H
Off to the right of Mr. Hunter (your right, not his)
is some Ecuadorian chocolate we bought: Chocolate Superior La Universal.  Yum!

Here we are drinking our Delisse-brand coca tea.
None of us felt any strange side effects from drinking it, and none of us who drank the tea felt any altitude sickness once we went up the mountain.

somewhere between Quito and Cotopaxi
June 2011