Cotopaxi: Visite el anillo de fuego del Pacífico

The Peak

The last weekend we spent in Ecuador was full of adventure.  On Sabado, we visited Cotopaxi, a 1500 year old volcano located 17 mi south of Quito.  Cotopaxi has one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world. The mountain is clearly visible on the skyline from Quito. It is part of the chain of volcanoes around the Pacific plate known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. Cotopaxi is the second highest peak in the country, reaching a height of 19,347 ft.  It is the second most popular destination in Ecuador, after the Galapagos Islands.


Cotopaxi National Park was created in 1975 as a protected area for the volcanoes and lakes within it.  An impressive array of animals live within the 34,000-hectare park such as condors, pumas, spectacled bears, Andean foxes, orange-headed caracaras (a specie of endemic to the region), llamas, frogs, paramo, humming birds and many others.  This park also has an important collection of lakes and mountain peaks. One the most outstanding of these is Limpiopungo Lake, which reflects in its waters majestic Rumiñahui 4,757 metres high; Santo Domingo Lake, surrounded by walls on Incan stone, the ruins of pucarás (Incan forts) and other stone platforms which are thought to have been built by Pre-Colombian shepherds.


El grupo Craven con Diego y Diego menor

We hiked to the way station which is 2/3 the way up the volcano.  Visitors are able to hike all the way to the peak, but it requires camping along the way.  Our shorter hike to the way station actually took a while, because we were at altitude.  I run a 5k several times per week, so I think I’m in pretty decent shape, athletic-wise.  So it was humbling to walk a few short steps and then have to stop and rest while breathing heavy.  I think it took about 2 hours for us to make the hike up from the car park, which was higher than the base of the volcano itself.  Of those of us who embarked on the journey, only 3 of us made it to our destination. Once we got there, was it worth it.  The view was spectacular.

Kayla Y yo en el pico

Kayla Y yo en el pico

Diego, our fearless leader from the Academia, treated us to a hot chocolate from the coffee shop there as a reward for making to our destination and I shared a tasty passion fruit infused chocolate bar I purchased at the MegaMaxi the day before.


We spent some time enjoying Cotopaxi and the spectacular view of the region around it before we headed down to meet the rest of our party.  Going down was much faster than up, it only took ~ 25 minutes!  It was like sand surfing… part sliding part walking.  We just dug our heals in and part walked, part slid down the mountain.

After our hike up the mountain we stopped at a beautiful hacienda for lunch.  The food was tasty and the rest very welcome.  We had worked up a big appetite climbing Cotopaxi and expended a lot of energy.


Wari, predecessors of the Inca, used restraint to reshape human landscape

Wari, predecessors of the Inca, used restraint to reshape human landscape.

Los Niños de San José Obrero-Comité

As part of our study abroad experience I like to plan service learning activity.  While in Ecuador we spent the better part of week interacting with students in an afterschool program.  Each afternoon we traveled by bus to an area of Quito called  San José Obrero-Comité to visit their afterschool program called Ñeque y más Ñeque.  The name can be translated in English to “strength and more strength.”


In Ecuador children go to school from 7 am to 1 pm and are provided breakfast at their school.  The program runs from 1 pm to 5 pm and is an effort to keep the children in this barrio of the streets.  San José Obrero-Comité is depressed area – families are poor and the barrio has a high crime rate and drug problem.  The afterschool program was started to give children a place to go afterschool other than the streets.  Here children are fed lunch, able to get tutoring help with their schoolwork, and are taught values – to respect their elders and themselves, to always tell the truth, etc.  They also have fun playing games and working on craft projects.

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We spent several days with the program.  On our first visit we were given a tour of the barrio, to see firsthand the problems.  When we arrived the children were not there so we met them at the end of our tour.  As we came around the corner to return to the school the children did so as well from another direction.  It was amazing, they ran over to us, hugging us, asking us our names, where we were from, and climbing all over us.  It is almost indescribable, they welcomed us, strangers really, unconditionally.  That afternoon the director spoke with us about the mission of the program, why it was started, and what they did there.  The students introduced themselves to us as well, telling us about their families, what they did in the program, the things they were learning.  The children asked us questions about ourselves and our families, the US in general.  We ended our first visit playing games with them.  They taught us to sing songs in Spanish.

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Our second day we worked on a craft project with the children.  We made heart shaped felt items with marker, scissors and a glue gun.  I was adopted immediately the first day by a young girl named Kiberly, she presented me with her craft as a gift when it was completed.  It was very lovely.  Afterwards, we spent the rest of the afternoon teaching the children American games such as Simon says and red light – green light.

Park 2

kids 2 Kids

On our last day with the children we went to the park.  Several of the French volunteers completing a summer long service project at the program had been raising funds to take the children to Parque de la Carolina to ride on the paddle boats. They were still in need of funds, when we arrived, so the students and I agreed to donate some of the money we raised selling BBQ to take with us on the trip to Ecuador.  It was a fun day at the park.  Each volunteer, including our gang, took 3 students out in a paddle boat.  We paddled around the lake area for about an hour.  Afterwards the children had a snack – cupcakes and juice.  We spent the rest of the time at the park playing in the grass with the children.


Just before leaving, the children presented the volunteers with medals of gratitude for spending time with them.  We hugged them all, and then they piled onto their bus and left us.


They arrived that first day on the street in the barrio like a whirlwind, and just as fast that afternoon the park they were gone. I still miss them – especially Kiberly.  It was a wonderful experience.

How Studying Mummies Could Cure Modern Diseases | Popular Science

Very interesting article that shows how archaeological research can be applied to a modern global issue.

How Studying Mummies Could Cure Modern Diseases | Popular Science.

Chair of Social Science, Humanities,
& Foreign Languages

Liberal Arts & University Transfer
Craven Community College

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New Bern, NC 28562
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