to the National Park Cotopaxi is quite simple. On the other hand,
it is difficult to forget its landscapes. Because in this place,
the mountains, valleys and lagoons, conform a spectacular panorama,
able to overwhelm the traveler. Located at only 50 kilometers
from Quito, this protected area is also a temptation for the "andinistas"
who fight and suffer to arrive to the summit of the Cotopaxi,
the highest active volcano in the world.
It is cold,
maybe too much, but that is not important now, because it is necessary
to continue although the
hill is sheer and the air gets scarce. One, two, three more steps...
there up is the mountain, powerful, the volcano, active. If it
exploded, rivers of lava -burning, igneous, aglow - would raze
the valleys and cities. The life tosses ashes for the rage of
the bowel of the earth... but it is necessary to continue: one,
two, three. Persistent steps. Numb steps.
farther. Where is the end of the road?, the summit wrapped up
with snow flakes and covered by
a thick scarf of clouds?... and it gets colder and the air gets
scarce. It hardly exists. The heart doesn't fit in the chest,
beats with strength, claming for a rest... but it is necessary
to continue until reaching the summit of the volcano. One, two,
three more steps. Hopefully they are the last ones.
continues. It is a question of will, of zeal, of demonstrating
to the fatigue that is always a tiny piece of energy inside the
body. Do no let the frozen wind neither the tortuous hill, not
even the treacherous cracks in the badges of ice to stop you.
To continue until reaching the summit of the Cotopaxi, that is
the only one important thing now. Only there one will be entitled
of the volcano and the lovers of the icy weather of the mountains
with cowlicks of snow, don't abandon in their fight against the
imposing Cotopaxi. The groups of "andinistas", leave
the Mountain Refuge José Ribas (at the base of the mountain
and at 4800 m.a.s.l.) between midnight and two a.m. The Moon is
an accomplice of their adventure.
in the darkness to surprise the giant and reaching the summit
with the first sunbeams that seek to heat the snow. Nobody thinks
of returning to the refuge. Nobody wants to be defeated by the
height or the cold or the fatigue... The "andinistas"
continue their walk: they carry strings, nails and crampons; they
also carry courage and anger.
is the highest active volcano in the world (5897 meters). Its
last eruption was in 1877. Stone and mud avalanches, rivers of
lava descended with violent brutality. Their smoky waste reached
the Pacific Ocean. If it exploded again, it would cause serious
damages in the central area of the Ecuadorian Andes.
around the park
has not decided to appear yet in
a gray, withered and somber day. Blurred panorama, shadowed
by the fog that covers everything: the mountains, the lagoon that
clamors for rain and also the pines that seem to welcome you to
the National Park Cotopaxi, located in the county of the same
The park has
a extension superior to the 33 thousand hectares and its altitude
fluctuates between 3400 and 5897 m.a.s.l. Its high mountains,
its particular flora, its elusive animals and its splendid valleys,
covered by the protecting shadows of the volcanos, irradiate a
strange power, a strange radiance that seduces and hypnotizes.
They give desires of staying forever.
the leafy and puny pines. Welcome the moor - devastating, wilderness,
immense - the distant hills that end up in the sky... and there
it is the lagoon of Limpiopungo (3830 m.a.s.l.) of serene, dark
and calmed waters that reflect the image of the powerful Rumiñahui
(stone face) volcano whose name evokes the brave general of the
Inca Atahualpa that set on fire the palace of the son of the Sun
in Quito, to avoid that it was occupied by the Spanish conquerors.
is a mole of water in a rural and complicated place, from which
the leaden silhouette of the
Cotopaxi can be sighted; then, one just need to follow the path
drawn in the earth, the unequal trail that leads to the terrible
volcano. The pajonales, the chuquiraguas (flower of the "andinist"),
the capulí, they embellish the road, they are balms for
the fatigue. One more reason to continue walking.
But this is
only a tiny piece, a piece of the rural beauty of this park located
in one of the vertexes of the Mountain range of the Andes. An
earth inhabited by condors and Andean gulls, by llamas and alpacas,
by deer and rabbits. An earth of scarce air, of headaches and
soroche (bad of height). An earth that captures the pilgrims of
the volcano that challenge the Cotopaxi under the silent help
of the Moon and the stars.