The sorta people you meet on Volcanoes

I hiked up Cotopaxi a few days ago. It’s one of the volcanos that’s right in the Quito area. Hiking with me were a couple from Brazilian, two middle-aged Swiss men and a gaggle of Germans. I’m not quite sure what the word for many Germans is. Of course the Swiss spoke German so most of my time was spent trying to understand what they were saying, and though I didn’t understand much I did learn some new words in German.

The Brazilians were lovely and were a bit disappointed to hear that I hadn’t gotten a visa to Brazil. I would really like to spend a few months in Brazil and to learn Portuguese, but I think that’s for a latter adventure.

Cotopaxi was incredible and the view was spectacular even though we couldn’t climb all the way to the top because of recent volcanic activity. Either Cotopaxi or Pinchincha, another local volcano, is overdue for an eruption which we all found quite reassuring. At the refuge on Cotopaxi, about 16,000 ft above sea level, one can expect an altitude headache. Apparently a cure for that is coca leave tea (the plant cocaine comes from) and the Swiss guys were very excited to have “the cocaine tea!”

A few days later I climbed Pinchincha, whose summit is about the same elevation as the refuge you can legally climb to in Cotopaxi. I think Cotopaxi goes up to 19,000 ft. On my way up I met a local Ecuadorian, Jackie. She was extremely helpful, and I’m pretty sure I would’ve gotten lost without her. After a bit of sliding down sand and clambering up rocks we reached the summit. I met the most amazing people on that summit. There was Juan-Carlos, the Spaniard who played his green plastic recorder while looking out at the view. There were two police officers helping a German man climb up the mountain. There was a seventy year old professor of history, who had immigrated from Spain to Ecuador fifty years ago. There was a man from China, who I was able to talk to in a great mix of Chinese and Spanish. He was a contractor for a Chinese pavement company in Cuenca. There was a lovely girl from Stuttgart, who would’ve forgotten her hat if I hadn’t gotten it back for her.