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.