We hopped on our bus bound for some sightseeing in the mountains to the south of Quito. The day started out crystal clear and we had excellent views overlooking the urban sprawl of the city as we climbed out of its valleys. We saw the nearby Cotopaxi Volcano – covered in snow and ice and towering above the rest of the landscape.
The clouds soon moved in and we climbed higher into the mountains. We stopped to visit with a local family who lived among their fields directly above one of the highways. Their house was made from local earth topped with thick grasses. Fava like beans grew in all directions. Ducking inside their house we were surprised to see many “Cuy” or local Guinea pigs rooting around in the almost total darkness – eating the fava bean leaves that the villagers had placed here for them. There might have been 75-100 of these furry animals living here. This is common – the villagers live inside their homes with these animals.
We continued up higher until we reached 4000 meters and viewed the gorgeous blue and aquamarine Quilotoa Lagoon far below us. Racing down the mountain I fast outpaced the horses and the hikers – leaving a dusty trail behind me. The highlight was seeing this crater lake from far above – at its shoreline, it was far less impressive. Finding a horse after a long wait – I spent $8 and rode it back up the mountain avoiding exertion and possible altitude symptoms. However one friend in our group has been fighting altitude symptoms this entire trip so far at the 2800 meter elevation in Quito. Her arrival at this much higher elevation created much worse symptoms, dizziness, nausea and soon she started vomiting repeatedly. These are all symptoms I have become way too familiar with over the years during my high altitude treks and climbs. Fortunately we headed down and after a few hours she was mostly recovered.
As often happens on bus tours you meet other travelers. Joe from New York entertained us with stories of his travels from around the world. And we ended up having dinner at one of his favorite local restaurants. Unfortunately, being Sunday no alcohol was served.