Christmas away from home was always going to be a bit of a strange affair, but the combination of the warm climate and the knowledge that we will be away from home till May gave Christmas a somewhat melancholy tone. We decided that on Christmas Day we were going to rest and recover in and around the inn, but in retrospect, that probably gave us a little too much time to reflect on what we weren’t doing; the usual Christmas rituals. Having said all that, it was great to have access to Skype and to be able to phone home and the dinner in the evening certainly lifted our spirits.
On Boxing Day, we decided to go back to what we know and headed out for a walk. In total the walk took about four and a half hours, taking us down into the gorge and along the river to a great little suspension bridge. Just as we began to climb back out of the gorge the heavens opened. It hasn’t really rained heavily since our arrival at the Black Sheep Inn, but yesterday more than made up for it. The rain accompanied us all the way to the top, a head down drudge. On the bright side, both of us seem to be acclimatising well. The climb was very similar to the climb out of the valley on Christmas Eve when we went to the Laguna Quilotoa, however, this time it didn’t feel like my heart was going to explode. At the top of the climb we reached an Italian Mission that has set up a woodworking cooperative that makes furniture, boxes and carving. We were shown to the workshop by a shuffling man and his two dogs, one of which was almost as tall as Sarah. The small showroom was an Alladin’s cave of beautiful craftmanship. Mirrors were carved with images of indigenous men and women working in the fields, a large box was carved with representations of Cotopaxi and Chimboroza and the tables and chairs mixed modernist design with rustic charm. We walked away with a beautiful carving and a small picture frame, both small enough to post home.
The final walk back was 3km uphill, which in retrospect we should have tackled after eating. By the time we reached the Black Sheep Inn we were running on empty. The combination of altitude and low energy reserves made the final kilometre a real battle. As we traipsed into the lodge we made our way straight to the coffee counter for some sweet, milky coffee to give an instant energy boost.
Today we will make our way to the Hostel Valhalla, close to the base of Cotopaxi. We will spend the night there before meeting up with our climbing party and guides to head up to the refuge tomorrow during the day. We will spend some time familiarising ourselves with the ice before spending the night in the refuge and leaving at midnight to attempt the summit. Even with good acclimatisation, Cotopaxi is going to be a real challenge. Climbing at high altitude is as much a mental as a physical challenge, especially when you are climbing at might to make the most of the best ice conditions. Neither of us know how we will deal with the challenges that Cotopaxi poses but are conscious that we are only a few weeks into a long trip, so safety will always be the prime concern, even if that means sacrificing the summit. It is all about the experience, not about the outcome.
One benefit of the time we have spent at the Black Sheep Inn is that I have bee able to get the camera out and then process the images. Having the Macbook with us has been really helpful in that regard. As a consequence I have been able to upload all my images to Flickr and get them to render on my Ecuador photo page. I am now up-to-date but I suspect that I may fall behind a bit when we get to the photographer’s paradise that is the Galapagos. We will probably be without internet access until we get to Quito on Saturday evening, but we will update on Cotopaxi then.