Your HostYour Host
Big Gee in Action
Visitor Map YouTube Channel Home Backpacking Caving Climbing Travel Mountaineering Rappelling email Me       
Links Disclaimer Credits
April  May  June  July  August  September  October  [November Highlights] December  January  February  

November 2004 in Ecuador

27 Nov: Feria de Quito begins

Feria de Quito Fireworks

This was a little bit of a surprise. I had not been lending attention to the various Quito Fair information I had been seeing. In fact I thought it was in December which is supposed to be a month of parties. The truth of the matter is that yes it is in December but the revelry starts early. Today we noticed them setting up for a parade right around the block - one of the advantages to living in the middle of Mariscal.

Sonja returned from Devil's Nose / Riobamba / Ambato by plane after a transportation strike shut down her land options enroute to Quito. What a surprise she had at the bus station when she found out nothing was headed north. Those 7 days of Spanish class was time well spent. After a series of setbacks she was eventually able to fly back on a 12 seat prop plane with 75¢ in her pocket.

We reunited at the office and spent some time around town looking at handicrafts that were "sooo ugly" to use her words. That night we decided to go see what all the crowds were about instead of our planned dinner and found the parade about to start. It was short and mostly consisted of floats with beauty queens from the different parts of Ecuador accompanied by marching bands. It was dark so my pictures aren't any good. Afterward there was a very short fireworks display. We spent a few more hours going from salsa bar, to street party, to bars (the service in this country sucks by the way) before we parted at around 1 am. She was heading back to Germany the following morning.

25 Nov: Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I just returned from a splendid Thanksgiving meal prepared by US ex-pat Marianne at the South American Explorers Club. Except for the non-pumpkin pumpkin pie it was very traditional. There was even American football on TV instead of fútbol. Strangely half the people weren't American. I was there with Morgan (Swedish) and Arthur (French) and had to explain what the day was about and that "this is stuffing" and "its called cranberry sauce" and how they were made. It was very odd. I am so used to being the foreigner eating strange foods and experiencing different customs that it felt weird and amusing to see other people in that situation with my culture. In true American style everybody ate too much so they adapted quickly.

20 - 24 Nov: Cotopaxi and Baños Extravaganza


Saturday morning arrived too early and with a bang as Morgan rapped on my door. I rushed to get ready and then stood around for what seemed like forever after the clients arrived and gear was sorted out. There was 5 people this trip: 2 Americans, 2 Germans, and 1 Englishman. For guides there were the 2 Ecuadorian leading guides and myself. To make a long story short, there were some acclimatization issues with three of the group and only 1 American and the Englishman summitted. At one o'clock in the morning all but one of us headed to the glacier. Sonja, one of the Germans, had become dreadfully ill during the night but willed herself up the mountain with the group to see them off and stand on the glacier. It was quite a struggle but she made it. I took some pictures of her and then after the last Moggely team headed off we made our way back down the mountain and she finally found warmth in 3 sleeping bags (including mine), my jacket, and all of her clothes.

How did I end up on a bus to Baños with Sonja after Cotopaxi? Well she was persuasive and I found out Morgan didn't have anything else for me during the next few days. The development was especially surprising considering I had expected to return to Quito afterward so I hadn't brought a change of clothes or more than $9.25. But she insisted she could cover me and my two previous trips to Baños were ruined by rain so there I was on a bus going south. And I am glad that I went. It was a great trip and we had a wonderful time in spite of Sonja getting very sick the night before she left for the jungle.

You have Sonja and her camera to thank for these photos (except obviously the ones she is in - I took those). I did not have my camera with me since I wasn't expecting to do a trip directly after Cotopaxi.

21 Nov: Arrival in Baños

We left Cotopaxi's hut and went to Morgan's Hostel Valhalla. Everybody was pretty tired. Sonja and I got dropped off on the highway and hopped a bus south. We arrived in town with about an hour of daylight left. The weather seemed really nice and we went for a short walking tour. Down by the bus terminal is a bridge over the Rio Pastaza which is worth a couple pictures. It is over a deep canyon with waterfalls plummetting into the river far below. It is a good "Welcome to Baños" location. From there we headed to my favorite hostel, Princesa María on Rocafuerte and Mera. It is $4 per person for a decent sized room with private bath. From there we walked through the center of town visiting a few tour agencies on the way to the thermal baths and the waterfall. By then it was getting dark and as we already had a long day we turned in early. Some photos of Baños

22 Nov: Horseback Rides, Waterfall Rappels (Abseils), and Volcano Eruptions

Sonja on Horseback

After I bought a partial change of clothes we met at the tour agency for our arranged four hour horseback ride. This was Sonja's moment to shine. She happens to be an avid rider back in Germany and was taking way too much pleasure from the thought of how sore my trasero was going to be. She said it was my turn to be hurting after running around so easily on Cotopaxi. She hadn't really considered the state of Ecuadorian horses though. Let's just say that the horses did not possess the same level of training as their counterparts in Europe's finest stables. So she was not able to display her skills for me. In addition our guide was completely ignorant and the horses mistreated. I suspect they work the fields as much as carry tourists around. But we did do a nice loop in the mountains above the town and the ride was generally pleasant. She had a very big smile after I told her that yes I was sore. What words of kindness did she offer me? Her response was that it was going to be sooo much worse tomorrow. And tomorrow she had a half day of mountain biking planned for us. She is also a cyclist.

Glenn raps the waterfall

The waterfall rappels were my idea but after seeing some pictures Sonja thought it looked really fun. There is a series of cascades outside of town ranging in size from just maybe 7 or 8 meters to 50 meters. We were provided with wet suits which we wore but they were not necessary. In fact the black suits made the hike up the steep hillside a brutal experience under the equatorial sun. All of us had sweat pouring down our faces and were relieved to reach the shade and water. The guide showed some good technique and we had a really fun time. None of the abseils were free (hanging without touching anything) but that didn't bother us. We did 3 rappels each progressively longer. The second one was probably the wettest (and is pictured to the right). The last one was quite high and Sonja was a bit worried but she did fine.

On the way back into town the sky was especially clear and we got a view of the active, 5016 meter Tungurahua volcano. At that moment nothing was happening but we decided to book a trip across the river on one of the nightly watch-the-volcano-erupt tours. For $4 each we were taken to a viewpoint at 3500 meters to watch and listen to the volcano while drinking hot tea with cane spirits. It was partly cloudy in the valley now but shortly after we arrived we saw what we came for: a plume of red lava spraying out of the top of Tungurahua against the night sky. Awesome. Over the next hour we heard it rumbling in the distance but unfortunately never saw another eruption.

23 Nov: ATV & Mountain Biking

Sonja on the Monster

We got up a little late and decided to rent an ATV for a short bit of touring. We ended up with a 2 person "monster" as Sonja called it. We only had it for an hour so did not see too much, but we did visit the other set of thermal baths and drive over to a spectacular gorge just outside of town. Most of our day was spent on mountain bikes on the road to Puyo. It is mostly downhill and a popular mountain biking destination. Basically the road descends out of the Andes to the Amazon Basin and the scenery is very nice. There are a number of tunnels on this route to be bypassed by cyclists on the old road, but the first tunnel does not have this bypass. The guy renting the bikes sure made the tunnel seem trivial. That is not my memory of the experience. These tunnels are not lit and we carried no lights. We both had a lot of speed entering the tunnel (Sonja well ahead of me) which was just after a slight curve after a downhill section of road. Because of the curve we did not know what we were rocketing into. Glenn My thought upon entering the tunnel was "You're fucking kidding me". Within seconds it was pitch black inside and I could not see anything except the brightly lit exit impossibly far away. I pointed myself straight at the exit and hoped that nothing was lying in the road and that no vehicles were coming. Unfortunately I could hear a truck or bus somewhere behind me downshifting. It was getting louder faster than the tunnel's end was approaching. I moved to what I thought was the side of the road but since I couldn't see anything I decided there was too much of a risk of crashing into the wall so steered back out of the mud and grit that was being flung on me by the front wheel. At about the same time as I was becoming illuminated by the feeble yellow of headlights I left the tunnel and stopped at the side of the road where Sonja was waiting with her crippled bike. The truck passed and she explained that when she entered the tunnel her bike's chain jumped off the sprocket and she couldn't pedal if she had to. By comparison the rest of the bike ride was boring. But there were a number of good views and nice waterfalls including Pailon del Diablo which was spectacular. Watching the vegitation change as we descended towards the Amazon Jungle was amazing too.

We finished the day with what we hoped would be at least a little bit classy restaurant for a good meal. We chose a place with tableclothes, fan-folded linen napkins, and candles on the tables. What a joke. We were seated and to our surprise the linen napkins and large plates were taken away to be replaced with a single square, paper bar napkin. The linen napkins were just for show. We grabbed some to use anyway and they were dusty and sewn together! And then they didn't even get our order right. And poor Sonja finished this night by becoming really, really sick. I took her home and played mom. She had a very unpleasant night.

24 Nov: Leaving Baños

Here is the weather that I am so used to seeing in this town. There were low clouds everywhere threatening rain. I had been sort of thinking about doing some bridge jumping (sort of like bungee but not quite) before heading out but just decided to leave before getting wet. Sonja was feeling better and after various medicines decided not to cancel her jungle trip. We said our goodbye's and have plans to meet in Quito on Friday night.

19 Nov: Various updates

No real big news. I'm still guiding. I just did another two trips up Iliniza Norte and Corazón. Iliniza was a success. On Corazón the ladies elected to stop at the crater rim about 300 meters below the summit and most interesting parts. Looks like I'm going to Cotopaxi as an assistant guide. Basically that means I'm the Hut Bitch. My primary responsibility is to leave with the group in the morning and accompany them to the glacier then wait there for awhile after they rope up and start the climb. This is in case someone wants to turn around right away. Then I can take them back to the hut and their rope team is not so inconvenienced. Not exciting but it is really easy money though. After maybe 2 hours of that I go back to sleep and when I wake up the climbers are returning and the day is over.

I took the bank card out for a little test the other day and discovered that all is well. It works. It has been over 2 months since my last withdrawl. Basically a little computer work covers my room and board and guiding money is for going out. I'm looking at maybe a really intense 8 day Amazon trip soon and doing some mountain climbs of my own. The weather has been really nice.

11 Nov: Too many farewells

Brahma Beer and Zita

I've been doing some entertaining lately. The groups that I had been guiding have been returning to Quito and generally we have a little get-together farewell party. It is quite nice. I generally spend the daylight hours doing some web work and have the night free to partake of libations and good conversation; usually at the Hot Potato. Last night it was Sara and Brenda plus one of their friends and myself and Arthur. We had planned to go out but instead finished off a couple bottles of the boss's rum supply as well as one of mine. One interesting development is a possible Colorado Trail thruhike beginning in May 2005. Brenda and I had talked about it before but last night we really began to get into some details. It is still very tentative and May is some months away but the more I think about it the more I like the idea. So just when will I become a part of society again? I have no idea.

10 Nov: Bank Card

Well I finally went down to the SAE Clubhouse to check whether my bank card had been delivered. Joy. It was sitting in the box and had been since the 21st. It arrived in around 5 days from Cleveland. That is pretty good I think. I should have checked earlier. Now I don't have to rely on guiding money.

06 Nov: El Corazón (4788 m / 15,705 ft)

The group on Corazon

If you get my emails you know that there was some excitement on this mountain last week. If not be advised that a young Brit with World Challenge took a fatal fall off a series of cliffy ledges. After returning from Papallacta I found out that I would be guiding 4 clients up this mountain the following day. Would there be drama on our trip too? Just a little.

The four were really two groups of two. All four were using this as acclimatization for Cotopaxi later. After introductions we geared up and left Quito for a late 10.00 start on the lower slopes of the mountain. The weather did not look particularily nice.

The weather held for maybe three hours. It began raining about halfway up the mountain as we were crossing a high basin and lasted halfway up the summit pyramid. Moral was somewhat lower than at the beginning with their wet clothes and cold bodies. I almost turned the group around due to the storm but the worst of it seemed centered around Cotopaxi. Then the storm became just a drizzle and I wasn't worried about lightning anymore but hypothermia. I was the only person reasonably warm and dry I think. Colorado Girl, Brenda, was having a particularily miserable time but was not willing to give up. Higher up the footing was slick with snow as well. Just not very good conditions especially considering that three of the group had no real mountain experience. Brenda was the exception with some Colorado 14ers.

Hiking down in the dark

Then, the sun! Just when we needed it the most the sun sort of came out a bit and the temps rose. Suddenly everyone was in a good mood and smiling. It did not stay that way for long but at least it wasn't snowing on us anymore and after a short class 3 section we made the summit to find the clouds open up for us. Spectacular. Everyone loved it.

So where was the drama that I mentioned earlier? It was on the way down. We simply did not have sufficient time to get down to our ride before dark. It was supposed to be a 2.5 hour descent but it took closer to 4 hours. So our ride had left thinking we were in trouble on the mountain. After a 30 minute rest break at the pick up point we headed down the hill were we found our rescue party opening the gate to come up the mountain. Everyone was relieved to find out everything was okay we just needed an extra 1.5 hours to descend.

Just a little drama, like I said.

03 - 05 Nov: Deja Vu


One month ago I was in Papallacta guiding the Swiss Nadine and Christine. Now I am in Papallacta again with another two girls from Switzerland, Zita and Esther. I am going to leave Ecuador and speak German! Well not really but I am learning a few new words.

To the right is a photo of Zita and I beginning the hike to Laguna Sucus. It was expertly taken by Esther in the mossy forest on the old Spanish road to the Amazon. Very historic.

We had a good 2.5 days together exploring Laguna Sucus, El Mirador, and playing in the creek. And happily the weather was surprisingly nice. We did not get rained on once. After this excursion they decided to skip the coast and make an attempt on Cotopaxi, and they were successful. Congratulations!

April  May  June  July  August  September  October  [November Highlights] December  January  February  

Activities discussed on this site are often dangerous and ill advised.
You can do everything right and still die or be seriously injured. Such is the nature of adventurous pastimes.
The people affiliated with this site make no claims regarding the safety or veracity of information.
Caveat lector. Think for yourself and make your own decisions.

november.php last modified on 25 January 2017 10:59:28 UTC