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: was I cut out for this?
We had arrived at the Secret Garden hostel in the Ecuadorian Andes less than 24 hours earlier from the country’s capital Quito, off the back of a tip from friends living there. Providing unrivalled views of Cotopaxi volcano by day and sequins of stars by night, the hostel is a fantastic 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 pace 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, stared at and ruminated over, its great plains and rocky crags defiant in mists and against blue skies.
Yes, I was cut out for this.