I just needed to end my days in Ecuador somewhere high up, and the volcano, Cotapaxi, beckoned. The Quechua name means “Moon Neck”, referring to the way the mountain “holds up the moon” when it is directly over the peak. Since the base of the mountain starts so far above sea level, its peak is closer to the sun than any mountain in the world. The last major eruption was in 1875.
The hike to the hut where climbers begin their ascent was challenging. The wind chill called for more than a red sweatshirt, which is the warmest garb I brought with me to Ecuador. I’d hoped to make it to the glacier with the rest of the group, but after 8 hours on a horse and 15 hours in a bus, I just couldn’t keep up. That’s fine. I needed the time alone in such a holy place, to let the mountain lift my spirit.
Taking the highway south towards Quito, the entrance to Cotapaxi National Park is just a drop off along the road. There I met two Colombians and an Australian and we found a tour guide to take us to the base of the mountain for $15 a piece. His nine year old daughter, Cynthia, just hauled up that mountain to the glacier! Living at altitude makes her well adapted to the severe elevation gain.
I think I fell in love with the 21 yo Columbian guy, a student of Management Engineering in Medellin. He held my arm all the way down the mountain and insisted on carrying my bag and backpack all the way in route to the hostel in Quito. What a charmer! Too bad I am older than his mother 😦 Anyway, I have an open invitation to Columbia whenever I can make it back to S. America.
I may not have mentioned yet how serendipitous meeting other travelers can be. In moments, I can go from a bout of dire lonliness to meeting wonderful people from all over the world that can make my day a blessing. The time together is all in the moment, as we all know when we say goodbye, we only hold the memory, but will likely never meet again.