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Ecuador: Quito, Pichincha Mountains (Day 3)

After coming home late from the first day in Ecuador, I managed only 2 hours of sleep before the sun came piercing into my eyelids with its blinding light. By now, I had spent one whole day awake and traveling, another whole day awake and drinking and now my 3rd day, up and about wit ha splitting headache from hangovers and altitude sickness. I could sleep for a whole week at this point!

The place I was staying had no drapes on the window and it faced the east so the moment the sun broke the mountains surrounding Quito, I'd be painfully forced to wake up. The light would bounce of the white walls and find its way into my eyes. It reminded me of a girl who would drape her windows with heavy bathroom towels just to keep the sun out. I unfortunately didn't have that luxury, and there was not much I could do. It was literally a blinding nightmare that wouldn't end!I was a walking zombie at this point. I just want some sleep!!!!!

Despite the splitting headache I had that morning, we pressed on and got ready for some treking.

The plan was to hike up a mountain. No idea what the name is, but it was the first thing you saw when you flew into Quito. In the picture below, there is a rack of antennas on that mountain if you look closely. There is a cable tram that you can ride up to that point and start hiking the trails they have set up. Altitude in Quito is about 8,900ft, the tram takes you up to 11,000ft and you can hike up as high as 14,000 ft.

Delusional from several days of sleeplessness, I realized I wasn't dressed appropriately. I had a tank top on, and it would likely meant I'd be freezing my ass off, got massive sun burn from being 13,000 feet closer to the sun (its actually closer because the equator bulges, if compared to NY) or get soaked from moving rain clouds.

This is my miserable face, head aching, thirsty and just about to break a sweat inside a tram designed to replicate the greenhouse effect.

There are tons of cows and horses running wild around Ecuador. This cow must of seen a ghost because I've never seen a cow run for no reason. Another thing you see are packs of stray dogs. I always thought it was a funny phrase, but now i know where they get it from! This cow ran into a building and I had no idea what it was doing inside.

After we got off the tram and walked a bit, we get to the over look. You can see the cables that the tram runs on. Looking down from this height makes you wonder if you can trust the engineer who built this cable tram. Tumbling down from this height will certainly make for a fun trip down the hill, possibly ending in serious health issues. I'd imagine 4 people in a tumbling tram down 3,000 feet to resemble something like minced meat....

This is how altitude sickness looks on my face. I didnt walk more than 100 ft and I was breathing heavily already. I can't remember if I was cold or hot in this picture, all I could remember was gasping for air. I could feel my heart racing to move the oxygen through my body, and my brain suddenly sending the signal for MORE AIR!! MORE AIR!! BREATH FASTER!!!

In almost any crappy situation there is a joke to be made out of it. That's if you have a sick sense of humor like me, or just a misogynist. My head was pounding, every part of my body was sore from drinking and being up for nearly 3 days. Yet I still like to crack a smile.

Cristian right before we make it to the entrance of the trail. You will see a tower on the backdrop to the right. That will be the goal for today. It might not seem too far away, but what you don't see is the drastic changes in elevation between here and the tower.

Making plenty of stops along the way allowed lots of cool pictures to be taken. Ill let the pictures speak for themselves. It was an awesome sight to just sit and appreciate the beauty.

This is what Ecuadorians call a horse....this thing is TINY! Kuixipedia alert, Horses take naps standing up, however to reach REM sleep, a horse needs to lay down, which it will do once a day or so. If you keep a horse up, it might get enough sleep, but because its REM sleep quota hasn't been met, they will literally pass out like they are narcoleptic. These horses didn't mind us being around them while they slept because they are part of a pack and one horse was awake and making sure the others were safe.

Pressing on!!!

atop of the hill in the previous picture was a sign with some directions of intresting points. For me this was Cotopaxi. But of course the clouds covered any view. I waited both going up and going down to catch a glimpse but the cloud cover was too thick in that direction.

This was the last push up the tower. At this point there were only 2 people other than us on this trail. It was NOT easy. You could rent horses to make this trip, but we decided to do it on foot to get a feel for what cotopaxi would be like. My body was barely adjust for 8900 feet. In fact I never even remember being at that kind of altitude and doing anything physical.

A little note on my altimeter. My Panasonic TS3 digital camera has a neat little sensors like GPS, barometer and altimeter. The camera finds the altitude based on ambient air pressure, in this case, 62.0 kPA. Normal pressure at sea level is taken to be 101 kPa, or 14.7 PSI (this means that there is 14.7 pounds of air pushing on every square inch of your skin at any moment. 62.0kpa is roughly half that so about 8PSI.

The difference in air pressure causes my bottles from traveling from New York ( high pressure at sea level) to Quito (low pressure at altitude) to swell up. My toothpaste exploded when I took it out and my contact lens bottle was just squirting like a gyser as the it equalized.

I should make mention of the drastic change in climate as we got up here. At 11,000 feet, it was nothing but blisteringly cold wind. As we made our way up, the wind stopped so it was just cool enough with clouds working as shade as to not break a sweat while you move up. But the weather would change in a blink of an eye. Within seconds, a massive cloud had brushed over our trail and visibility quickly became limited.

The cloud brought rain and there was nothing to do but turn around at this point. Cristian really had to take a poo, and I was starting to get really cold. I tried hiding in the bushes to get away from the wind, but then the rain became stronger as the system moved more into our area so we decided that this would be a good point to turn around.

The challenges of breathing at this altitude (now 13,000+ feet) was really beginning to show itself. When your body is adjusted for a certain altitude, your muscles know how much oxygen there is in each breath and your body just adapts. But my body had always been used to sea level. The most oxygen you can get per breath.

As you become more physical, the oxygen needs of your body exceeds what there is available and you begin to hyperventilate. Each breathe was simply not enough. Cotopaxi will be a HUGE challenge considering that we begin our assent at 15,000 feet. Digging deep is great, but you can't do it without oxygen! Especially if I'm already struggling to breath at a measly 13,000 feet!

Moving back down the mountain was much faster than going up the mountain, obviously, but new dangers presented itself. The pounding the knee takes if you are moving too quickly or the possibility of a bad step and twisting your ankle are the main issues.

As we moved lower the rain went away and the sun came out for a tease just enough for a sunburn, but howling winds quickly brought the clouds back.

On the way back down.

Since the rain stop, the camera came out again for this panoramic shot.

Just outside of the horses' camp, the sky really began to clear up and the suns rays were really starting to pick up again. We were above the tree line, so only grass and low level plants grew at this altitude.

After that, we went back to our apartment and I fell asleep for 2-3 hours before we got dressed for a birthday party. VIP $14 bucks open bar? Sure thing!

The taxis in Quito do not allow guns. Sorry boys.

We finished the night again, around 4am. This lack of sleep was taking its toll on me. Tomorrow's plan is to drive to Latacunga at 7am and the first step to Cotopaxi. But that meant only 3 hours of sleep. Luckly, I can function without sleep for several days, just expect me to crash really hard, really soon.