nother adventure with Cotopaxi Travel. This time, we embarked on a 2 day journey exploring Cayambe Volcano in Cayambe Coca National Park. After a very relaxing morning spent in the lodge, we left in the afternoon to make our way to the Refugio. After an hour and a half of driving, we stopped for a delicious lunch at a small restaurant off the main road, then continued another hour to the entrance of the park. As the road to the Refugio is under construction, it requires some logistics to get there. Luckily, Cotopaxi Travel has an operation. The road is open to drive part way before 7:00am and after 4:00pm. We arrived around 4:30pm, and transferred our gear into a 4WD truck. If you’re lucky, you can sit in the truck bed with the bags and enjoy the view with a refreshing breeze as you make your way up the bumpy and windy road. After about 20 minutes of driving, you reach the construction zone. From here, you must walk with your bag for 20-30 minutes through the construction zone. At the end of the construction zone, another truck will be waiting to take you the rest of the way.
The following 40 minute drive is definitely a rough one. Remember that you are driving to an extremely remote location at around 4700 meters, so the journey there is not always a glamorous one. However, you instantly see how worth the drive is when you arrive at Refugio Ruales Oleas Berge, right at the base of the volcano. There, you have a 360° view of Cayambe Volcano, Cotopaxi National Park, the sparkling city lights of Quito, and other surrounding volcanoes. The elevation of the Refugio puts you right above the clouds, making it a fantastic sunset. The Refugio itself is one of the most beautiful Refugio’s I have ever stayed in. It is a very spacious lodge that can fit around 35 people. The dining area offers stunning panoramic views with its big windows, and there is always hot water with tea/coffee available. We settled into our rooms, then were rewarded with a delicious meal of quinoa soup, and rice with protein (the staff are very accommodating, and will make sure you are well fed no matter what your dietary restrictions).
There are various activities you can do near the Cayambe Volcano. Most people staying at the lodge are there to summit it. The guests in our group planning to climb the volcano were sent to bed around 8:00 pm, and woke up at 11:00pm. A light breakfast is served with tea or coffee, and then it is time to suit up, meet with your guide and start the ascent. From the lodge, it is about an hour’s hike to the beginning of the summit trail, where you’ll put your crampons on. The climb itself completely depends on the person, but averages about 7-9 hours to complete. I did not do the climb, but the people in our group said it was amazing, and based on the photos they showed me, I definitely believe it. Breakfast was served to the climbers upon return, along with as much tea or coffee necessary to warm them up.
As mentioned before, if you want to experience this beautiful Volcano without the pressure of a 9 hour, high altitude trek, there are many other options. I, for instance, spent the morning rock climbing with Fernando. I woke up around 6:00 am, and enjoyed a coffee with the lingering mountain sunrise views. Around 7:30, we left the lodge and walked 50 meters to the beginning of our route. The rocks are abundant in Cayambe Coca Park, and there are plenty of options for all levels of experience. Fernando was an amazing guide, and always made sure I was feeling comfortable, as it was my first time rock climbing at such high altitude and cold weather. To me, this was such a unique way to experience the volcano.
The climb took no more than an hour and a half, and we chose a route that led to the Cayambe Volcano summit trailhead, where we met the others descending from the top. We walked back to the lodge together, and were able to spend some time relaxing before going back down to the park entrance. The process was the same to go down, driving in one truck for the first stretch, walking through the construction zone, and being met with another truck to bring us all the way down. We stopped at a restaurant in the town of Cayambe for lunch, then had a sleepy 2 ½ hour drive back to Chaupi.
Cayambe Volcano is a beautiful experience. Being in such a remote location, so close to the glacier, allows you to feel very connected to nature. It is not only for those seeking extreme adventure sports. There are options to simply visit the lodge for an amazing lunch, and do some easy walking trails to take in the views. Cayambe Volcano is another must see when travelling Ecuador.