Initial reports of an imminent eruption were greatly exaggerated!
On our return from the internet café we thought we would swing by the tourist information office to find out what the prognosis was for the re-opening of the paths that were said to be shut. “Eruptions like this happen every week; it’s nothing to be concerned about. Everything is open as usual” came the reassuring response from the lady behind the counter. That was all the reassurance that I needed to re-embark on the initial plan to walk a loop up above the town, higher on the slopes of the volcano, to the Statue of the Virgen de Santa Agua and onwards to the Bellavista de Runtún.
The initial climb to the Statue de Virgen de Santa Agua was a lungbusting set of steps that rose 300 vertical metres from the western edge of town to the viewpoint for the summit. As we laboured our way up, one flight of stairs at a time, we were passed by groups of teenagers positively bounding up the steps.
“Cotopaxi isn’t going to be as steep as this, is it?” exhaled Sarah.
“No...nothing like this steep” I replied. Only 3000 metres higher and with snow and ice. I think we need to get some more acclimatisation walks under our belts before Cotopaxi and the Inca Trail.
Even though the skies were gloriously blue over the town to the south, a stubborn blanket of cloud obscured the view of the summit. So, having caught our breath we started the traverse across the face of the slope to the viewpoint on the other side. The path was thin and dusty, cut into the side slope with fantastic views to the south over he town. To either side of the path was a mixture of papaya trees, tree tomatoes (that is the literal translation from Spanish), Eucalyptus and bananas. The hardwood trees were draped with lichens a what looked like bromeliads growing from the crux of the branches. At ground level vibrant orange crocosmias grow over the sides of the path. As we walked along the path we were constantly accompanied by butterflies of all manner of shades of brown, red orange and black. At one point we came across what looked like a group of giant wasps, almost 4cm long and with bright flashes of orange across the back of their abdomens.
In the full glare of the sun we were starting to wane by the time we go to the Bellavisa de Runtún. After a brief stop for lunch and an opportunity to record our first video podcast we made our way back down into town.
Today we are due to head of for half a day of canyoning (abseiling down waterfalls). As I write this a thunderstorm is just breaking over head so I had better make a dash for breakfast.