Thursday, November 11, 2010

I didn't die

Given my dismal performance in Lhasa 3650m (12000ft), I have been wondering and worrying for months now how I would do at high altitude on this trip and how cold it gets at such altitude. The first opportunity for me to find out is Quilotoa Lake, a volcanic crater lake, whose rim is at 3900m (12900ft), and the lake at 400m below. Though we were skeptical, I did not want to wait for another two months to find out in Bolivia.

We planned out all the scenarios. We would get on the 10 o'clock bus from Latacunga. The trip takes 2 to 21/2 hours. We left John's backpack back in Latacunga, so the family mule can carry everything in case I become debilitated. The plan is to find some lodging however primitive, so I can lay out for the rest of the afternoon if necessary. To stay warm, we packed all the layers of clothes, including hats and scarves. I planned to not take a shower, since it is only for one night and it is cold and I may be totally out of it.

Well, I lived to tell about it. We were so pleased to find that I was more or less fully functional, given the family mule bears the majority of our burden. The first afternoon we went along the rim for a short stroll, a little slow. The next morning, we walked down to the lake and ascended the 400 meters in one and half hours, no headache. I was ecstatic and covered in dust! In Lhasa we would have gotten a taxi to convey me 400 horizontal meters.

At night, the cold was not so bad either. We went to bed at 57F and woke up at 52F. In the middle of the night, I did wake up with a headache, not sure because of altitude or sinus, took two ibuprofen's. That was that. No sleepless nights.

On the other hand we found Quilotoa Lake to be a tourist trap, its environment overused by grazing eroded, and its people tarnished by tourism discontent.

Volcano Quilotoa and its crater lake. There is a hiking trail around the rim as well as a path down to the lake.

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Sun-Ling hiking along the outside of the crater rim at almost 13000 ft.
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Sun-Ling hiking down to the lake inside the crater.
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The last rays of the sun hit the upper part of the crater rim.

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Crater Lake in the morning as we were descending.
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1 comment:

Nate Gay said...

Absolutely gorgeous!