Saturday, April 16: Pelileo, Cotopaxi Nat’l Park, Quito

The day began with breakfast at the converted hacienda outside of Patate. The view of the mountains and the valley was spectacular. The many greenhouses in this area are used for growing tomatoes and peppers. It is amazing to see large greenhouses built on a 30° slope.

Mountain peak
Mountain peak
Greenhouses built on a 30° slope
Greenhouses built on a 30° slope
Intensively farmed valley and slopes
Intensively farmed valley and slopes

Tree tomato or tamarillo
This is a tree tomato or tamarillo Cyphomandra betacea Sendt. It is not a true tomato. It’s a member of the family Solanaceae which contains Datura (Jimson weed), Mandragora (mandrake), belladonna (deadly nightshade), Capsicum (paprika, chili pepper), Solanum (potato, tomato, aubergine or eggplant), Nicotiana (tobacco), and Petunia (petunia). In Colombia and Ecuador fresh tamarillos are frequently blended together with water and sugar to make a juice.
Pelileo (old town)

We drove past the town of Pelileo. On August 5, 1949, Pelileo was totally destroyed by an earthquake (7.1). Some 5,000 people died within the limits of the county. This view is of the old city (Pelileo Grande) which has only been partially rebuilt. A new city (Pelileo Nuevo) was built in a nearby location. It is also known as the “Blue City” because it is a major manufacturing center for blue jeans.

Pelileo Nuevo - blue jeans
Pelileo Nuevo – blue jeans
Pelileo Nuevo - church
Pelileo Nuevo – church

Since we had been traveling for several hours, it was time for a potty break. We stopped at this service station. Like most rural service stations it has a small shrine. After leaving the service station we were held up for a while because of a political demonstration organized by the Communists and the teachers’ union to try to convince voters to vote “Si” in the referendum to be held on May 7, 2011.

Service station
Service station
Shrine at service station
Shrine at service station
Political demonstration
Political demonstration

Our next stop was at the Parque Nacional Cotopaxi (Cotopaxi National Park). This is Ecuador’s first National Park. It surrounds Mount Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world (19,348 ft). The park is quite undeveloped and has few amenities. The roads are gravel or mud and recent heavy rains had flooded some roads and caused several washouts where our bus had to ford streams. Unfortunately, the clouds and rains persisted throughout most of our visit and so we never did get a clear view of Mount Cotopaxi. Much of the surface of the park is covered with soft cushion grass. This means that the hooves of the wild horses that roam the park do not wear down properly. As a result, the horses have to be rounded up every year to have their hooves trimmed.

Main entrance to the park
Main entrance to the park
Fording a stream
Fording a stream
Map of the park area
Map of the park area
Our tour guide and the park guide buy tickets
Our tour guide and the park guide buy tickets
Low growing lupin
Low growing lupin
Lupin with seed pods
Lupin with seed pods
Cushion grass
Cushion grass
Some of the wild horses that roam the park
Some of the wild horses that roam the park
Clouds obscure Mount Cotapaxi
Clouds obscure Mount Cotapaxi
Limpiopungo Lake
Limpiopungo Lake
Birds on Limpiopungo Lake
Birds on Limpiopungo Lake

We had a bit of trouble leaving Cotopaxi National Park. Our driver thought that the bus would get hung up on the railroad crossing on the usual road out of the park and so we had to back-track to find an alternate route. We stopped at the food court of a large shopping mall on the outskirts of Quito for lunch. There were lots of American chains (KFC, Arby’s, McDonalds, etc.) as well as local chains so everyone could have what they wanted.

Large shopping Mall
Large shopping Mall
Three floors of shops
Three floors of shops

After this late lunch we drove to the Quito Hotel and checked in. Since we had eaten a very late lunch, few of us bothered having supper. We were the only “land-only” members of the tour group so everyone else was packing for their flight back to the US. Since this was the first time that I’d had a decent Internet connection in days, I worked frantically to update the blog. I worked till midnight on Saturday and then all Sunday morning until noon checkout.