Erik Vs. The Volcano


This blog entry about the events of Friday, October 31, 2003 was originally posted on November 01, 2003.

DAY 13:  “Did you go out partying for Halloween last night?” a Danish blonde asked me in the back of a truck at 8:03 in the morning.  She saw that I looked pretty exhausted.

“Yup,” I answered all groggy-eyed, waiting for my coffee to kick in.  “And you?”


“Ah, you’re smart.”

And so began my trip to Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world, just 90 minutes south of Quito by car.

While climbing to the peak of Cotopaxi is a popular to-do for many travelers, I wasn’t really interested in the inevitable altitude sickness of it.  Instead, I had signed up for a day trip with the Biking Dutchman, a mountain bike tour group based out of GringoLand, recommended to me by a fellow member of South American Explorers.  Despite its name and location, the tour guide was Latino. 

Originally I signed up for a two-day trip, but four people were needed and I was the only one registered.  I switched over to the one-day and lucked out with three Danish girls, Lisa, Dort and Luisa, each in Ecuador on a work visa.  However, our little group of four was unexpectedly joined by a group of 24 British people in a big volunteer-tour group, with their own bus that we always had to wait up for. 

We drove southbound on the PanAmericana highway to the park entrance to pay our park fees.  From there we drove up the volcano on a twisty and bumpy road comprised of volcanic rock and soil, passed trees and wild horses.  It would have been an American SUV owner’s dream if s/he ever left the suburbs.

We parked at a parking area at about 14,800 ft. above sea level, just a couple hundred meters short of the snow line.  It was the vantage point of a spectacular view of the Valley of Limpiapungo, the common countryside in between three other active volcanos.  We unloaded our gear in the frigid air while guys in ATVs and dirt bikes had a field day nearby.  Then we geared up in helmets and enough safety gear to protect our bodies from falling, or a freak occurence involving a sudden barrage of hockey pucks. 

Tired of waiting for all the Brits to get their stuff together, our guide Fernando let the four of us go ahead to the rendezvous point.  It got warmer and warmer as we descended down the slope of the volcano — clenching our hand brakes the whole way — down a twisty path of loose volcanic rock and soil.  The bumpy ride could have made any guy feel like his testicles were in a paint stirring machine at the Home Depot.

At the first rendezvous point, we waited for all the Brits to come on down.  Their ages varied from young to really old, so it took quite some time.  Luisa complained that it wasn’t fair that we paid the same amount as other tourists who didn’t have to deal with all the waiting, and we all decided that we’d complain back at the office back in Quito.

YOU KNOW WHEN YOU FIRST START PLAYING a racing video game and you always start in the pole position, but gradually end up in 16th place because all the computer-controlled cars are better than you?  Well that’s how it was with me en route to the second rendezvous point, which was only about fifteen minutes away on level ground.  I blame the fact that my gears were messed up and my chain fell off at one point, and the one time my shoelaces got caught in the main cog like spaghetti wrapped around a fork.  It didn’t really matter to me because I was surrounded in a land reminiscent of Tolkien’s/Jackson’s Middle Earth.  I eventually caught up with the rest for lunch near a creek.

I switched bikes for the last leg of the day.  We traveled like Hobbits on bicycles on an undulating path through the Valley of Limpiapungo, passed cows and kids riding on mules.  It had been the most amazing scenery I had seen on my Global Trip so far.

I WAS EXHAUSTED WHEN I GOT HOME in Quito, and Blanca made me a refreshing juice.  I say “made” because that’s the way it has been in Ecuador so far.  I don’t think the people here believe in buying big half-gallon cartons of juice — every juice I’ve had has been made with freshly-squeezed fruits, blended with water and a little sugar.  I figured my stomach had already strengthened because I had no reaction to Blanca’s latest batch of OJ. 

It was a Saturday night but I was too exhausted to go out partying or anything.  Instead I vegged out at my new favorite internet cafe around the corner, run by a German guy completely fluent in Spanish.  I imagined he was a total computer nerd back in Germany who just got sick of sitting in front of computers all day at home and traveled to Ecuador to sit in front of computers all day in Quito.  I swear the guy never leaves the place — he’s the only guy here from 8am to 11pm — and he just sits at the front desk surfing the web while listening to 80’s new wave songs and Cirque du Soleil soundtracks.

After updating The Blog, I just wandered into the hip internet cafe/bar to see who was around, and found Navid on a computer using Yahoo! Messenger next to two guys using the messenger on  I think it subconsciously inspired us to go across the street to Zocalo, a trendy bar with ambiguously gay chi-chi drinks.  Navid and I had a midnight snack and a nightcap before I went back home and slept for a nice ten hours.

Next entry: Pee On The Trees

Previous entry: Virgin by Day, Witches by Night

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Comments for “Erik Vs. The Volcano”

  • To say your bike trip pictures are inspiring would be an understatement! Really cool Erik.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/01  at  11:40 PM

  • Good stuff! I bet your ass was a little sore lol.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  01:33 AM

  • those are some great views!

    that ride sounds like spin class to the 10th power.

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  02:13 AM

  • Those pics were tortuous.. for me!! So wish I was there speeding through the “Shire” with ya! You weren’t kidding about equipment. Looks like one of the Swedes has shin guards!

    Run into any Ringwraiths? smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  04:10 AM

  • great googli-mooglies!

    You rode down an active volcano! Great pics btw.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  01:08 PM

  • Thanks for the comments guys…keep em comin’!

    Johnny:  for some reason, i knew you’d drool….  like my use of the word “undulating”?...  ringwraiths? yes…in the form of old british volunteers…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  01:49 PM

  • wow, those landscape pictures are amazing. it is very beautiful there. are you going to climb that volcano later on? the mouth of the volcano would be an awesome picture. when was the last time that volcano erupted?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  02:16 PM

  • After looking at all the pictures of this amazing and beautiful place, it makes me want to quit my job and go climb a mountain…i’m so jealous!

    I love your blog, keep the photos coming too!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  03:29 PM

  • Alice:  no plans to climb this one… but i plan to conquer kilimanjaro in africa…possibly go up to base camp at everest too…

    Dtella:  quit your job now and climb a mountain then! wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  07:58 PM

  • Its soooo tempting.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  08:11 PM

  • dtella:  there is a difference from knowing the path, and walking the path.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  08:22 PM

  • There is no spoon…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  08:23 PM

  • hi eric, i went to the cotopaxi volcano, i actually walked up to the first refuge, it took 2 hours and a half, i did see the tourists on mountain bikes riding down.  Another volcano that if u so do deside to go to is el pichincha, dont know its location but its acouple of hours out from the city of quito I dont know if there is any bike riding there, but u do seen tombs stones on the outskirts of the mountains from climbers which have died or gotten lost in the mountain.  Eric try to inquire about Papayacta, this is a place where natural spring waters come out from the mountains into man made swimming pools which overlooks snow filled moutainous landscapes when there is no mist.  chek it out, its out from the city of quito but worth it.  I mean sitting in these spring waters and just looking at your surroundings, very relaxing

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  11:19 PM

  • the shire looks nice…so go find some of the best weed in the shire has to offer…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  01:05 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
Pee On The Trees

Previous entry:
Virgin by Day, Witches by Night


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