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.