Lucky to be last: hiking in the Andes

Pausing for a breather on Rumiñahui volcano
The view from Rumiñahui volcano with one of our walking guides

Acute mountain sickness isn’t fun. Dominating the peaks of South America was going to be harder than I foresaw. As I stumbled steeply upwards at the back of the pack, our local walking guide Henry an ever-smaller speck in the distance, I asked myself: could I cut it?

We had arrived at the Secret Garden hostel in the Ecuadorian Andes less than 24 hours earlier from the country’s capital Quito, recommended by the friends we were visiting in Ecuador. Unrivalled views of Cotopaxi volcano by day and a tapestry of billions of stars by night. We had found our gateway to adventure within this most sweeping of mountain ranges.

The 4,721ft Rumiñahui volcano was the first of three hikes we would take on in this corner of the Andes. Even with the luxury of time to acclimatise to altitude, it isn’t an easy climb.

Henry’s girlfriend – second in command – did her best to chivvy me along, but my body could go no faster setting than ‘glacial’. As I inched along, frustrated that I wasn’t going to make the peak like everyone else, I turned around and it dawned on me. The view! Everyone else focused on toppling Rumiñahui but my end goal had shifted.

The Andean panorama that surrounded me deserved to be ogled at and ruminated over, its great plains and rocky crags defiant against blue skies and clumps of cloud.

Yes, I was cut out for this.

Pausing for a breather on Rumiñahui volcano
How it felt not to have to climb any higher at altitude. Until Cotopaxi the next day!
Preparing for the descent on Rumiñahui volcano
That view.
Relaxing after the ascent Rumiñahui volcano, before the steep descent
Other backpackers, most had been in South America for months, far more acclimatised than me!
Sliding down Rumiñahui volcano
What comes up must come down. Our reward for climbing so high was to then hurl ourselves wacky races style down near vertical sandy paths.

Published by Kateonhertravels

An insatiable appetite for travel.

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