We set off at 8am today. Local guides Tomas and Fernando join us, and we head for the town of Sangolqui, south of Quito. We stop to visit a busy, local market. We are clearly the only tourists in town, and the locals seem as interested in meeting us as we are in meeting them. The range of market produce here is amazing, with a huge variety of the fruit, vegetables, meats, spices and more. Our guides accompany us as we go, and we hear about what's on offer, and have a taste every now and then. The stall holders are keen to help. We buy some fruit to share out at lunch time.

From Sangolqui we take a cobbled road towards Cotopaxi. This is a back route, not taken by many, but providing wonderful views of the spectacular scenery of the valley of the volcanoes. Our lunch stop is at a glorious location called Cotopaxi Pungo - a hotel restaurant situated on the edge of Cotopaxi National Park, with a direct view to Cotopaxi itself. Sadly on this occasion, the clouds cover every inch of the volcano so we just have to imagine what it looks like!

After a tasty lunch, we arrange for a couple of the bedrooms in the hacienda to be opened so we can take a look. We also visit their new spa, and enjoy a walk around the gardens. On the way we spot some very active humming birds and a beautiful blue bird called a Masked Flower Piercer.

photo © Ammit Jack