Thursday, November 1, 2007

Snow at the equator!

Q: where in the world can you find snow at the equator?

Sounds a bit like a trick question but I got caught in a snow-storm today in Ecuador! Ecuador, so called because it lies on the equator, is the only point where high land and the equator intersect.

We were supposed to be mountain-biking down Cotopaxi, the worlds highest active volcano, but when we up to the normal start point at 4800m on the side of the volcano there was a snow-storm blowing. Its possible to do a two day hike to the summit across the glacier normally but not today. The bikes normally start their down-hill at the hikers refuge just below the start of the glacier. But sensibly our guide decided biking in snow mightnt be the wisest idea and no arguments from us on that. (Just two Belgiums and myself on the trip). So we drove back down to the plateau area at the base of the volcano where the weather was clear and began our ride across the flatish boulder field over volcanic ash paths. The boulders had been through out of the volcano during previous eruptions. The most recent was in 1877.
Actually a lovely ride as we continued on down through highland mountain meadows with wild horses around. Then we reached an area of rolling hills that was exactly like the Wicklow Mountains! Ecuador is very green after the desert areas of Peru and Bolivia. Our last section left us completely soaked and muddy though as a sudden downpour as we descended through the forest turned the track into a completely muddy mess. Good fun but I was very glad Id brought a complete change of clothes in the jeep before our two hour drive back to Quito. Apparently the weather in Ecuador is always unpredictable so better get used to changeable conditions - sound a bit familiar?