Cyclists and Cotopaxi
Great excitement late afternoon yesterday! Quito´s colonial city centre was transformed into a professional cycle race, reminiscent of a stage of the Tour de France. Police motorbikes lead the way, followed by the participants, followed by more police. They cycle right in front of our hotel´s front door so we have a prime view. And they pass by at least 15 times! We decide it must be a circuit and the end is probably the main square. The cyclists are very speedy considering the altitude and we are exhausted just watching them.
This morning, Sunday, we head south to Cotopaxi National Park. Cotopaxi is Ecuador's second-highest mountain peak and one of the world's highest active volcanoes. On route we stop in the town of Machachi to visit a large local market. Fernando our guide takes us on a tour of the market stalls. It is a huge market and it is clear that every conceivable vegetable and fruit, meat, fish and other food stuffs are on offer. Fernando and Richard spot a stall with pineapples and we cut a few up and hand out fresh pineapple snacks. Very juicy and refreshing! From Machachi we continue south on the Pan American Highway to the main entrance of Cotopaxi. At the visitor centre we collect our pre-prepared permits, welcome a local guide from the park and drive towards the base of the volcano. Clouds cover the top today but we can see the base and also catch an occasional glimpse of the snow line above. We all disembark and take a stroll alongside a shallow lake that sits on a plateau below the volcano. The views are tremendous and we spot a number of birds including Andean Gulls and Caracara.
Leaving Cotopaxi we have an appointment at Hosteria La Cienega for lunch. The gardens here are beautiful and the hummingbirds are on particularly good form today! Richard finds it very difficult to encourage guests to get back on board the coach!