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Colin and Sue’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 02 Sep 2006

Location: Cotopaxi and Cuenca, Ecuador

MapLatacunga is full of people from the Black Sheep! Met up with Bonnie who also booked to go to Cotopaxi on the same tour (following Tasmanian Cathy´s recommendation). Then bumped into Rene and Carla from Holland at dinner.

Arrived at the tour agency for 8.30am as instructed - still not on Latin time - the ancient bus arrived at 9.15. Set off with another multi national group of Swiss, US and Dutch. Brian from the US is on an 18 month tour, 6 months through and still enjoying it.

After 5 minutes stopped to pump up a tyre, after going incredibly slowly and being passed by everything else on the road including tractors, we stopped again - one of the brakes was sticking and the front wheel was red hot. A mechanic was called out to "fix" it (good old mobile phones) and we continued. But it still wasn´t right and after a tour group mutiny (steep roads - dodgy brakes) eventually we swapped into another much smaller car and got there about 2 hours late.

The weather was awful - freezing cold, raining and total cloud cover - what volcano! A long walk up to the Refugio for lunch at 4,800m - I (Sue) was hit by the altitude and had to lie down - Bonnie offered me drugs but I made do with Coke - surprisingly effective. Then we carried on to the glacier - the clouds lifted and we had fabulous views (so the delay was all worthwhile).

Lots of people climb to the summit, 6-8 hours further on starting at 1am when the ice is frozen - we could not imagine doing this but hope that Rene and Carla make it tonight.

Back to Latacunga and a change of plan. The bus to Cuenca takes 8 hours (we thought 4-6) so we decided to get the overnight bus at 11pm. Met Rene and Carla over delicious lasagne and tried hard not to put them off the volcano climb (did not mention toilets at Refugio!) They´re young, fit and full of optimism.

Our first overnight bus was fine - no action movie but the end of a husky dog film before we fell asleep exhausted. Leg room designed more for small Ecuadorians than Colin. Got in at 7am and could check straight into our hotel for a shower and breakfast.

Have spent today exploring Cuenca and admiring the beautiful colonial architecture - all very laid back compared to Quito. Generally seems more prosperous - it was hard to get used to the tiny children selling sweets on the streets and hopping on and off buses to sell things in Quito - there´s much less of that here. Visited flower market where Colin bought me a flower arrangement - must be the effect of the altitude! The flowers here are beautiful - nearly all the roses sold in the UK come from Ecuador and Columbia. They are also sold in markets in lovely arrangements - not quite the clumps sold by the Solihull street flower seller!