The local bus arrived at Latacunga in the middle of total chaos with people, cars, and buildings everywhere. Located two hours south of Quito, this congested city serves as a starting point for the Cotopaxi volcano explorers.
Without knowing where to start, we joined a young Ecuadorian man that offered to take us to an agency. He had already given us information on how to get to Latacunga at the bus stop in Quito. It was then I realized that on the first day of my adventure, I was sharing a taxi with four strangers.
I was in a strange country on my way to climb an active volcano, consequence of an invitation from a Colombian couple I met that morning at breakfast.
The young man paid for the taxi ride to the agency refusing our share of the ride. He negotiated a good price for a guide to take us up the volcano. He then indicated a trustworthy restaurant for lunch. He left us without saying his name, but I was touched by his genuine hospitality and kindness. If this first day represents the South American hospitality, it’s going to be a great trip, I thought.
We started our Cotopaxi volcano climb after lunch, which is not the norm. People usually arrive at Cotopaxi National Park in the morning, but I was following the enthusiasm of my new Colombian friends.
I was so in “go with the flow” mode, that I didn’t consider the fact that I had only been in Ecuador less than 24 hours and was already climbing up to 4810 meters. This was a little bit stupid, but luckily I was fine the whole way up. We had a cup of tea at the Refugio before heading back down while we still had daylight.
The bus ride back to Quito is one of my favorite memories of Ecuador: colorful neon lights and loud music. It was such great fun! Ecuadorian people are very musical and I just love that!
Since I originally wrote this story, there was a Cotopaxi eruption in August 2015. I really did not have the notion that I was climbing one of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador. Also, my Colombian friends got married.