The past week after leaving Colombia I have been in Ecuador where I met my friend David loitering within the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’ in a small village called Cotacachi. I missed Colombia as soon as I crossed the border, especially the soldiers on the side of the road decked-out in full combat gear, adorned with handsome, well-oiled machine guns and giving the universal ‘thumbs up’ to signal that all was well around the next corner in which I was pointing the 125 cc moto.
David was volunteering at a Hosteria (hotel) just outside of Cotacachi, so I piggy-backed on the good will of his efforts and stayed for a lazy 3 days to refresh my Garcia-Marquez. David, weighing-in at a modest 52 kgs, then jumped on the back of the moto, and we sped-off at 50 kmh to Cotopaxi, the nearest active volcano. The owner of the Hosteria, a lovely man in a funny hat, advised us that Cotopaxi was closed to visitors because it was erupting, which made our journey much more exciting because we had never seen an erupting volcano.
After riding past a number of helpful “warning volcano” signs on the side of the mighty Pan-Amarican highway, we arrive at the gate to volcano Cotopaxi. However, the park ranger, a well – spoken Ecuadorian lady in her early 30s, wouldn’t let us in with the moto because she was afraid that the fumes from the moto would impact upon the small animals! So we left the 125cc Suzuki (with its errupting nuclear reactor) at the gate and hitched a ride on the back of a jeep.
The jeep drove into the park and after a bumpy 10 kms, we started our assent up the fearsome Cotopaxi. The jeep went up and up and up and the temperature went down and down and down. And then it started to snow (sidways) and the flesh-eating wind grew to a blizzard and striped the life off the barren, deathly landscape. At the car park at the end of the road, I jump off the back of the jeep, gasping for what passed as air at 4800 meters, looked at David, who had already died 3 times, and wonder when we are going down again.
David then disappears into the mist chasing his hat and the driver and the others casually get out of the cab to climb to a mythical base-camp-cabin somewhere above what is already the highest point I have been anywhere on earth. I quickly get into the vacant cab, still trying to breath, and then David comes back, after dieing a fourth time, and without a hat. We wait in the cab of the freezing jeep for what seems like hours until the others come back smiling, they kick us out and battling the wind we climb on back and go down again to where the humans live.