Snuggle up

March 31st, 2013

It’s been a chilly couple of weeks, mostly because we’ve been cycling around some of Ecuador’s highest points. Leaving the comfortable casa de ciclistas (and the perpetually generous Santiago and family) in Tumbaco near Quito felt like leaving a micro climate.  Warm days – with sunshine and birdsong – and cool nights – perfect for sleeping in our tent in Santiago’s garage – gave way to snow-capped volcanoes and icy winds.

Climbing up to Volcán Cotopaxi and then up again to Lago Quilotoa had us digging out every scrap of warm clothing we’ve been carrying, and developing a new found respect for those who live their lives at high altitudes.


Sarah cycling on the cobbles up to Volcan Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Cobbles keep you warm. A massive cobble sceptic, I found that they do have a benefit after all...tackling a 15km climb on cobbles definitely maintains a cosy body temperature.

Donkey in the road on the way to Volcan Cotopaxi, Ecuador

This donkey, just near volcano Cotopaxi, has just the right amount of snuggly fur to keep a smile on his face...ascending higher, the donkeys put on more fur, getting shaggier and hardier.

James and Sarah riding towards volcan Cotopaxi, Ecuador

On the approach to Volcán Cotopaxi = layer up with all the clothes you've got and then sit back, pedal and enjoy the view. Riding your bike doesn't get much more spectacular than this.

View of Volcan Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Determined to soak up this incredible view, we search around a boulder field for a good sized rock to shelter behind...

The tent and bikes in front of Volcan Cotopaxi, Ecuador

...and find ourselves with a sweet spot to spend the night.

Sarah and James' tent in front of Volcan Cotopaxi

Not all of our campsites are as idyllic as this and we were so lucky that the volcano came out to play having been shrouded in cloud for most of the day.

Flowers in front of Sincholagua, Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

Local flora.

View of Volcan Cotopaxi in the morning light, Ecuador

With just a few clouds and soft morning sunshine, Cotopaxi knows very well how to show off all of its 5897 metres.

Sarah and James boiling tea in front of Sincholagua, Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

Never more grateful for our trusty little stove, we are making hot drinks throughout the day to keep warm. A shame then, that on this particularly crisp morning, we run out of fuel for our stove and have to abandon plans for coffee and porridge.

Sarah with some schoolgirls in the village of Yanaurcu Grande, Ecuador

Arriving in the bleak little village of Yanaurcu Grande, we find Patricio pushing his five year old daughter home in a wheelbarrow. Everyone shelters together in his little shop from the miserable weather and then he kindly invites us to camp at his place across the square.

La Osita in Yanaurcu Grande, Ecuador

As she refuses to give us her name, we christen Patricio's daughter "La Osita", the little bear.

Sheep in Yanaurcu Grande, Ecaudor

Not only bears trying to stay snuggly around here. The sheep in this neck of the woods have developed a dashing furry coat to keep the warm in and the chills out...quite how they manage to see anything is another story.

Sunset over the hills near Yanaurcu Grande, Ecuador

Camping in Patricio's sheltered yard is a blessing as the mist rolls in and the rain comes down; not before the day goes out with a spectacular sunset...

La Osita and Sarah in Yanaurcu Grande, Ecuador

...and then an early morning farewell. Standing in the rain, with La Osita perched on my bike, we have a last minute giggle and wave goodbye before disappearing into the mist. The little bear is off to school and we are headed for the Quilotoa Loop, a series of roads taking us past Lago Quilotoa, a crater lake at 3800m.

The twin peaks of Illiniza, Ecuador

Climbing out of Yanaurcu Grande, another volcano comes into view. The snow covered twin peaks of Illiniza.

James in front of volcan Illiniza

One. Chilly. Cyclist.

Patricio's father on a donkey near Isinliví, Ecuador

On a bitterly cold descent to the village of Isinliví, we meet Patricio's father coming towards us on his donkey. With only the traditional felt hat common in these parts and a fleece jacket to keep him warm, I am surprised he's not shivering away like us.

View of Illiniza in James' cycling mirror, Ecuador

"Warning: snow-capped volcanoes in mirror may be further away than they appear."

Sign for the Black Sheep Inn at Chugchilán, Ecuador

After a couple of nights camping in the cold, we're grateful to come indoors at Chugchilán. Thanks to a very generous gift from Raul & Lina in Medellín, we can splash out and spend a night at the lovely Black Sheep Inn...

Plants inside the toilet at the Black Sheep Inn, Chugchilán, Ecuador

...where the eco-tourism credentials are impressive. Recycled rainwater feeds a living flower bed in the toilet...

Different coloured glass bottles imbedded into the wall at the Black Sheep Inn, Chugchilán

...and walls are given a cheerful look with colourful old glass bottles.

Woolly socks hanging on the line at the Black Sheep Inn, Chigchilán

I am half tempted to pinch a pair of these snugglies while we are at the Black Sheep. My thick smart wool socks are currently my most prized possessions and seeing these beauties all lined up makes me crave a second pair.

Llama stretches to touch Sarah's hand at the Black Sheep Inn, Chugchilán, Ecuador

Making friends with one of the two resident llamas at the Black Sheep...

Llama eating grass at the Black Sheep Inn, Chugchilán seems she's more interested in her breakfast...

Llama at the Black Sheep Inn, Chugchilán

...but eventually she pauses for a moment to bat her eyelashes and pose for the camera.

Lago Quilotoa, Ecuador

Half a day's climbing through ugly roadworks and in freezing rain brings us to the beautiful Lago Quilotoa. We're not lucky enough to see the famous turquoise colours in the water but we do catch it at sunrise the next morning with Illiniza lurking in the background.

Two people at Zumbahua's Saturday market, Ecuador

We visit the colourful Saturday market in Zumbahua and take note of how the locals wrap up against the cold. I'm still not convinced that the trademark felt hats worn in these parts are enough to keep you warm but teamed with a colourful poncho and layers of blankets, they do look very fetching.


7 Responses to “Snuggle up”

  1. Ma and Pa Says:

    This arrived while I was replying to your e-mail so I still haven’t gone to bed! Lovely pictures – what beautiful things you are seeing and the little girl smiling with you is a real treat! Well done you both. If I had to mark these pieces of written English they would definitely be 12 out of 10! Bopom to be collated out of this when you come back – it would be anice little earner!


  2. Emma Mehmed Says:

    This reminds me of stepping off the train in Flagstone! And piling on the summer layers for our trip to the Grand Canyon!! I only had three-quarter length trousers as we’d sent all our warm clothes home a month earlier in New York. Reading your blog, I physically winced at the lack of fuel for your morning porridge and coffee – not a good start to the day! Hope you are keeping warm.


  3. Jorge Iván Ballesteros Toro Says:

    Felicitaciones. Alegría leer cada momento del viaje. Buena vibra, buena biela, buen pedal.


  4. Caliche Says:

    y ahí van los ingleses ! Que montaña más bella, me dieron en el corazón, abrazón !!!


  5. anna Says:

    Brrrrrr. Cold.


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