jeff´s career break

Adventures on Volcanoes and Other Ecuadorean Highs

Written By: jeff

Posted On: July 18th, 2010

career breaks, career break travel, travel adventures in Ecuador, Cotapaxi volcano, Quito

Cotapaxi Volcano from Quito. Copyright

Well, it’s been almost nine weeks total on the road and the end of my three weeks here in Quito.  In some ways this stay has been almost as laid back as BA was.  In other ways, I’ve done a lot and will be back in a week and a half to conquer the rest of the country (probably not the best choice of words for an American to use here).  But, the time here has been different than in Argentina.

career breaks, career break travel, travel adventures in Ecuador, Quito

Magic Bean Cafe in Quito. Copyright

Here I’ve taken it easy during the week: hanging out in cafes in the afternoon, drinking coffee with friends.  And, let’s not forget going on a few dates. Not being a big dater generally (as most of my friends are painfully aware), it’s certainly been an experience trying to get into the swing of things.  But, it’s been fun and safe.  No details going in the blog guys – sorry.  Just know that I’m getting really good at flirting in Spanish.

career breaks, career break travel, travel adventures in Ecuador

Cotapaxi Volcano Summit. Copyright

Last weekend I went with my Danish gal pals, Christy and Downy, to the active volcano, Cotapaxi.  We went with a biking company called, Biking Dutchman.  The cost was $45 and so worth it.  We met up at 7AM and jumped in a Toyota Land Cruiser to make the 2.5 hour drive south of Quito.  The drive up was beautiful.  With all the mountains and volcanos, there are hundreds, probably thousands of micro-climates that change the scenery every 10-20 kilometers.   The roads here are quite good.  I’ve been very impressed.  But, it takes a long time to travel short distances because of the mountains.  We had a small but fun group with us for the tour: a dad and daughter from Reno, a Brit who left his corporate job behind like me and a quiet woman from Malaysia traveling around South America and taking Spanish lessons in Quito.

We arrived at the entrance to the National Park, paid our $10 entrance fee and off we went to ascend the volcano (in the truck, of course).  On the way up, we hit a patch of road which had washed out.  So, we had to wait until the earth mover could replace the road.  After about a 20 minute wait, we continued heading up.  Cotapaxi is about 6000 m/19600 ft high.  We went up around 5000-5500 meters.  The top of Cotapaxi was covered in clouds so we couldn’t see the tip top.  We took a couple of pics and then descended a bit to get on our bikes.

career breaks, career break travel, travel adventues in Ecuador, biking on Cotapaxi volcano

Jeff on Cotapaxi. Copyright

I so did not have the right clothes for the ride so I had to improvise.  I wore my jogging pants, a couple of layers of shirts and my tennis shoes.  Knowing that the top would be windy, cold and wet, I bought a cheap pancho to wear.  The wind got a hold of the pancho and I was forced to tuck in the pancho to keep from flying away.  I swear I looked like the flying blue nun.  The Brit, Matt, said, “Jeff, I don’t think you can appreciate how truly ridiculous you look right now.”  Always with a self-deprecating attitude, I told him that I thought I could. Pictures are coming soon.

The ride down was fantastic.  I haven’t done a lot of mountain biking – just road biking.  So, it took me a few kms to get used to the bike.  Of course, the first 12 kms were the steepest.  So, it was quite an adventure.  But, I took my time getting down so I could enjoy the view.  It was magic.  And, as we descended, you could feel the temperature rise slightly, the wind decrease.  It was quite cloudy as Cotapaxi creates its own weather.  But, still, it was magic.  We stopped off for lunch about halfway down.  We enjoyed homemade spinach quiche, tuna salad and brownies.  We also had some nice hot tea to go with it.  With our stomachs full and our energy levels raised, we got back to business.

The road had two steep uphill parts.  I was forced to get off the bike and push.  We were still at a respectable altitude so I was winded from this little activity.  But, luckily the road again turned downhill and my lungs recovered while coasting on the road again.  On the last leg we had to cross a stream.  I was the first to arrive and thought I could go right through it.  About halfway through, the bike stopped and I was forced to get off my bike to push.  My shoes and socks were soaked.  The only good part was that the stream washed away all the mud from my shoes from a muddy patch I stepped in earlier in the ride (silver lining everywhere). Around 4ish, we headed back to Quito and got back around 6:30.

The night moved quick as my host mom hosted a formal dinner where I was expected.  So, after a quick shower, I was cleaned up and presentable.  After dinner, the younger crowd (and yes, that included me – but barely) went out to one of the local bars, Zocalo, to listen to live music, enjoy a cocktail or two and dance the night away.  There were two gringos in our crowd.  And despite feeling my gringo heritage on the dancefloor, I later found out that I was thought to be the superior gringo dancer.  My fellow gringo was a Brit who speaks fluent Spanish, has lived in Argentina and Spain and has had formal salsa lessons.  So, clearly the South American groove agrees with me and I have the happy hips to prove it (OK, must get formal dance lessons when I get back to Argentina).

career breaks, career break travel, travel adventures in Ecuador

Celebrating my final nights in Quito. Copyright

My second to last night in Ecuador was spent with my host mom and her two granddaughters.  We had a lovely home-cooked farewell dinner; Gloria is an incredible cook and uses all the fresh ingredients available here in Ecuador.  We then went out to the “Coffee Tree” outdoor cafe for drinks and live music.  Coffee Tree is full of foreigners during the day and full of the “see and be seen” Ecuadorean crown at night.  Well, a few passion fruit martinis later and we were ready for some dancing.  Now, when I say “we” went to the Coffee Tree, this includes Gloria.  She’s somewhere in her late 60s or early 70s and has the energy of a 20 year old.  She smartly converted to water during the course of the evening, something I wish I had done. Around midnight, we went back to Gloria’s flat and danced for a couple more hours.  It helped to burn off the alcohol I’m sure.

career breaks, career break travel, travel adventures in Ecuador

Gloria and I dancing. Copyright

I’m leaving Ecuador for about 10 days to go cruise the Gulf of Mexico with my friends Mark and Tom.  Trust me when I say, all this schooling and cultural immersion takes it out of you!  But, I can’t wait to get back to Ecuador to experience the countryside: Amazon jungle, Galapagos and the historical southern region.  I’m going to spend more time here than I anticipated.  But, it is worth every day.

Originally published May 18, 2007

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon

Tags: , ,

One Response to “Adventures on Volcanoes and Other Ecuadorean Highs”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Jung, Jeff Jung. Jeff Jung said: The Sunday Read: Adventures on Volcanoes and Other Ecuadorean Highs from Jeff's #CareerBreak #Travel Blog… [...]

Leave a Reply