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We had driven more than 30,000 miles up to this point.  We’d traveled for 14 months, through 12 countries on two continents and crossed the open sea.  Still, traversing the imaginary line that divides the earth’s northern and southern hemispheres is about as anticlimactic a milestone as they come.  Actually, on our first time across, I was sleeping in the passenger seat when Zach said, “I think we just crossed the equator.”  “Can we come back tomorrow?” I pleaded groggily.  I couldn’t be bothered to wake up for the momentous occasion.    

It wasn’t as ridiculous a request as it seems though.  We were headed to some hot springs for the night and coming back the following day would only require a 5 min detour on our way to Quito.  After a night soaking with the locals in Oyacachi, we felt refreshed and energized enough for the obligatory equator photos.

The site we visited, La Mitad del Mundo, is the place where Charles-Marie de La Condamine and his expedition made measurements in 1736 proving this was indeed the equator.  His expedition’s measurements gave rise to the metric system and verified that the world was not perfectly round but rather bulges at the equator.  Despite its significance in history, the location itself is far from exciting.  In fact, current GPS technology suggests that it’s not even in the right spot.  Crossing the equator does have its merits though.  From here forward, our trip will consist of pushing deeper into the southern hemisphere.   This means longer days, a completely different nighttime sky, and a farewell to the tropical weather to which we’ve become accustomed in exchange for the seasonal weather we so love.

After crossing the middle of the world, we made our way to the famed Volcan Cotopaxi.  At 19,347 ft, Cotopaxi is a giant whose towering symmetrical cone dominates the landscape for miles in every direction.  Cotopaxi is one of the things I’d been looking forward to since the beginning of our trip.  Despite its intimidating height, the ascent is not technical and thus it is an ideal climb for beginners like us.  Still, it requires traversing a glacier so crampons, an ice ax and some experience are necessary.  For those without any of the above, a guide is recommended.  Attempting the summit of Cotopaxi is actually a fairly popular trek for tourists in Ecuador, ensuring there is no shortage of guides waiting to make the trip.  Hikers ascending Cotopaxi typically leave basecamp around midnight, reach snowline at 2 am when the ice is its hardest and, with any luck, arrive at the top in time to watch the sunrise.  You can be sure it is a tough and cold endeavor.

Unfortunately I’ve been battling a knee injury ever since our trek in El Cocuy, and though our stubbornness almost got the best of us, we ultimately decided to leave Cotopaxi for another day.  We did manage to hike up to the glacier though, marking another milestone for us.  At more than 16,500 ft, it is the highest our own two feet have ever brought us.

Lago Cotacachi...named for the islands in the center and their apparent resemblance to a guinea pig.
Lago Cotacachi
La Mitad del Mundo...the middle of the world
Silly equator photos are necessary
One foot in the north, one in the south
We made it to the southern hemisphere!
Quito, Ecuador
Unfortunately we didn't have time to explore this supposedly beautiful capital city
Our campsite just outside Cotopaxi National Park
A beautiful area
Wild horses within the park
The glacier covered peak of Cotopaxi
View from
Base lodge of Cotopaxi, where hikers begin the ascent
We decided to forgo the summit attempt and hike to the glacier
The glacier on Cotopaxi
We made it over 16,500 ft
the Astro made it over 14,000 ft
We were happy not to be making a summit attempt as we watched a snowstorm on the peak from our campsite that night
Cotopaxi National Park
One of our new favorite fruits..the Chirimoya
View of Illiniza Sur y Norte from Cotopaxi NP
Ecuador is full of snow capped volcanic peaks
We drove the quilotoa loop through various small villages and lots of Andean countryside
Village life in the Andes
No patch of land is left unfarmed
highlight of the loop - lake filled caldera of Volcan Quilotoa
The locals believe the lake is bottomless.  Geologists believe it's 250 m deep.
We hiked the 6 mile trail around the crater
We had gorgeous views of the crater lake on one side and Andean countryside on the other
Life in the Andes
The trail looks harmless but was constant up and down.  Reminded us of hiking the great wall in China

It was a beautiful hike though
First time we'd seen pine trees in a long time
Our campsite in the small hamlet of Quilotoa

About Anywhere That's Wild

Jill and Zach met as undergrads in 2003 and have been living in an amazing intentional community in Worcester, MA for the last several years. During this time, Zach worked as an engineer while Jill finished her graduate degree studying environmental policy and social entrepreneurship. When life afforded the perfect opportunity to leave their bondage days behind, they took it. This journey is a time to reconnect with nature and each other; to discover together the beauty of the natural world and its many cultures. We look forward to sharing our stories and photos with you.

Trip Start: 2013-06-30 Trip End: 2011-06-01 .

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