July 2003 - The Highest Active Volcano in the World

Ecuador is a country no bigger than our state of Colorado yet has some of the greatest biodiversity on the earth. Due to the temperamental tectonic plates underneath, earthquakes are not unknown here and it is also home to Cotapaxi (left), the highest active volcano on the earth. It was about a 40 minute ride away from our Hacienda El Porvenir and we spent a day hiking up to the refuge. None of us were prepared for just how cold it was and if your hat wasn't firmly attached it was gone with the wind over the side. Our destination was to a refuge at 4800 meters while the rest of Cotapaxi rose above us to 5600 meters.

About every 20 feet the students would plop down into the pulverized lava gravel and complain about whose idea it was to come on this silly adventure anyway. Our legs were already wobbly from the horseback riding the day before. Some of the kids (who were active in sports at school) said that it was the hardest thing they had ever done. Even though the volcano is active it was covered by an impressive glacier that you can start to see in the picture to the right. Ann ran the last 10 feet which then knocked her to the ground with a round of applause from those of us waiting.

"The hardest thing I have ever done!"
Climbing Cotapaxi
Vale la pena, means "It was worth it" in Spanish. At the top, we were blown away by how spectacular the glacier is close up and then literally almost blown away by the strong wind. It was constantly in motion with wind and fog and small rocks and ice chunks tumbling down.

View Past Lobster Updates:

You can see how dramatically the glacier ends in the picture to the right. There is a little stream of brown water that we are jumping over. The volcano is warming up a bit they say. They don't know if it is because the volcano is becoming more active or because of the effects of global warming.

"My face and tweef are fwozen."

Down the Drain Clockwise or Counterclockwise?

The Equator was only 22km north of Quito and there was an excellent ethnographic museum there. We pulled out our GPS but it kept coming up with a reading with an accuracy of more than 60 feet. The owner said that is typical. But we did a little experiment to prove that it was the equator and it was one of the coolest things we have ever seen. To start, we stood directly on the true equatorial line and pulled the plug on a sink full of water. As the water was draining out, we put rose petals on the surface and watched to see which way they flowed. They did NOT rotate to the left or right....just, swoosh, straight out the drain.

We then picked up and moved the portable sink about 5 feet to the north and did the same thing except this time the water drained counterclockwise. We picked up the sink again and carried it about 5 feet south of the equator. This time the water drained clockwise!. It was amazing to see so directly the effects of the earths rotation.
Water draining at the equator
Because there were no opposing gravitational forces, you were able to balance an egg on the top of a nail. You can actually try this on our hemisphere on the summer and winter solstices. The students were very dedicated to accomplish this and if you did you earn a special certificate.

Otavalo Market

Just north of Quito is the town of Otavalo which is famous for it's Sunday indigenous market. Well, we got there on a Saturday but it was still pretty impressive. We shopped for weavings and carvings sold by locals dressed in their traditional embroidered blouses, and long skirts (for the women) and the men with rope sandals and dark felt hats.

Cuy, or guinea pig, is considered a delicacy in Ecuador. It is served whole (staring at you), but furless. We ordered one for all of us to try and it tasted like....chicken, of course.

After two days of white water rafting we spent a glorious night at the hotel La Cascadas, which means The Waterfalls. It was heaven on earth and the rooms rooms all surrounded this tropical surrounded pool and natural waterfall.
It took three days and 300 rolls of toilet paper until the little bugs that some of the people picked up got out of their systems. These parasites didn't have passports, so we tried to leave them behind. These pictures are "actual re-inactments" of Brian and Kait during these trying times. Kait named her parasite Humphrey. More than half our group got sick at the same time.