Cotopaxi by: Anik

We spent one more night in Quito after flying back from the Galapagos.  Our hostel of choice, The Secret Garden, once again didn’t disappoint with it’s view as we ate dinner.



Early the next morning, we headed south to spend what would be close to our favorite few days in 9 weeks.  We stopped in the small town of Machacha for provisions and of course, our daily galletas from a corner panaderia.  I say “our” galletas, but really they’re “my” galletas.  I think I’ve got some cookie monster DNA.

To get to Cotopaxi, we drove 17 KM on once again another cobblestone road, which took an hour.  The mountains were socked in with clouds but the countryside, with it’s rolling, quilted hills and small farms were refreshingly beautiful.  We’re seeing that we feel at our best, really in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but a view.  The kids have nothing but freedom in these places and the peace, quiet and openness of it all, give Darin and I nothing but a sense of gratitude.


We arrived at the Quito’s Secret Garden sister hostel, which exuded rugged comfort.  We parked our van where we had Cotopaxi to ourselves.  The hostel had a fireplace, a spring fed small hot tub, horses, Alpacas, and resident dogs.   The kids were in heaven.


That first afternoon, I hiked to the nearby waterfall, and walking through the frigid cold river in some borrowed rubber boots, I once again had a “what if we moved here and adjusted Cotopaxi’s climbers and made our own cheese?” vision.  Luckily, we’ve also realized that the Northwest is one of the most amazing places in the world, and the people in our lives are even more amazing.  So much for the queso fresco idea.


For $15.00, we had our camping and all meals covered.  Darin and I slept in our tent, again, with Cotopaxi in our window and my mom and the kids slept in the van.  The meals were prepared by incredible chefs, who treated us to crazy cheeseburgers, quinoa vegetable soup, chicken potpie, the best tiramisu we’ve ever had, and homemade breakfast buns.  We shared evening beer and wine with the travelers and climbers from all parts of the world, and had some excellent fireside laughs.


We woke up the first morning, to a jaw dropping view of Cotopaxi.  We just stood there, trying to decipher what our eyes were telling us.  At 5,897 m (19,347 ft), Cotopaxi is like a goddess, keeping watch over the world below.


Darin and I got a ride down the road that would have broken our van, to the climbing route.  We climbed up to the glacier at 5000 m (16,500ft).  Despite the turista situation we were both dealing with, we could see the summit and it was pulling us up.  Regardless of the fact that it wasn’t 1am, and that we hadn’t hired a guide and gear, which is mandatory on Cotopaxi, we wished we had cramp ons and peanut butter sandwiches in our back pack.






We got our ride back to the hostel (Darin ran…nut job!), and took the kids and my mom to the waterfall hike.  Again, my inner cheese maker emerged, as I my cheeks were stretched with perma-grin.




The kids had played in Quito with the Australian kids whose parents own the hostel.  The had called the day prior to let us know that they were coming for the weekend, should we wish to stay and have the kids play together.  We were all thrilled to stay a bit longer.  The 5 boys played together non stop and begged to stay together longer.  They exchanged emails and promised they’d meet again someday.  As we pulled away, Simon said “I wanna stay here the rest of my life!”.


On our last morning, I felt like an acclimated guru and went for run that lasted about 7 minutes before I felt lightheaded and on the verge of vomiting.  So much for feeling strong as bull at 13,000ft.  We left Cotopaxi on the third day, promising ourselves that we’d return to climb it in the near future.  We’ve enjoyed so many places in the past 9 weeks, but Cotopaxi is the only place that’s already drawing us back.

reluctantly driving away

reluctantly driving away

Quito by: Anik


Considering that big cities haven’t been our favorite places to visit, objectively speaking, Quito has been the most beautiful city we’ve seen.  It’s old, warm, and it makes for excellent camera shots.

Our primary reason for going to Quito was that my mom was flying in for a 2 week visit and we were to fly to the Galapagos islands from the Quito airport.  We found a hostel named “The Secret Garden”.  It hosted a rooftop terrace that greeted us with panoramic views of the city which made us question if our eyes were playing tricks on us.


The owners were Australian and had a 10 year old boy, Thomas, who became Simon’s instant friend.  Over the next two days, we would spend a fair amount of time up on this terrace, sipping weak coffee, sipping wine from a box, and reading and writing as the kids were taking spanish lessons.


My mom flew in late the first night and I convinced Darin that I would drive the hour through the city to go pick her up as there was no need for all of us, including car sick prone Marco to spend over 2 hours in the van.  Simon and I set off and almost immediately got lost.  After driving on a deserted highway which turned out to be completely closed and rolling through a neighborhood thick with the risk of danger, we finally found out way.  Once we made it safely, Simon said “mommy, you sure said SHIT a lot on that drive…”.

Just like picking Tierra up from the Cartagena airport, greeting my mom in Quito felt excitingly surreal.  After showing my Palm Springs cultured mom the bunk beds and mini electric shower heater, we went to bed laughing.

The next day, we spent hours walking through the city, with my mom strong as a bull despite the thin air which hosts the world’s second highest capital city at nearly 10,000 feet.


We climbed to the top of Quito’s basilica and marveled at the bird’s eye view of the city.


We had a basic almuerzo of comida tipica, which once again, consisted of chicken, rice, plantain, and homini.  It’s so good, but that ship has sailed and we’re craving something different.

We bought coca leaf from a street vendor yelling “coca! coca! coca!”.  Apparently the dried bay leaf looking coca works miracles for altitude sickness and acclimation.  Cotopaxi’s 19,000 ft (and change) summit push might serve as our double blind study.  The vendor sell coca candy, coca tea and pure leaf that you’re suppose to chew, which is what we went with.  We figure it should be best in its’ purest form.


We decided to go out for a nice dinner that night, as another chicken meal wasn’t gonna cut it.  We went to the neighborhood of La Ronda, the oldest and said to be quaintest area of Quito.  It was beautiful but the restaurants were far from quaint and the food surprisingly bad.  After leaving a few restaurants, we ended up in a karaoke sort of bar, with music so loud we couldn’t talk.  Half of our order failed to come, and we ended up eating rolled up deli cheese and baloney  held by toothpicks. We were given wine that tasted like a joke and realized it just wasn’t gonna happen. At this point, we needed to head back to bed for our 3:30am wake up call and resorted to eating a cold piece of pizza and strawberry soda from a street vendor.

For those of us accustomed to the creative culinary experience that Portland provides, we’re learning to be flexible and grateful for whatever comida we’re presented with.  Our van is parked in Quito, waiting for us on our return from the Galapagos, I think we’ll take in one last glimpse of this gorgeous city and and hit the road south…if Cotopaxi’s rainy forecast makes room for us.