Neck of the Moon
We’d spent the last few weeks in the United Kingdom, but with the possibility of settling down soon looming in our future, we wanted to get out of Europe and explore somewhere new - South America was calling our names. We touched down in Quito early in the morning and spent a day exploring - touring old town, walking along the equator, eating street food. Our wallets had been feeling the strain of being in Britain so long, and we were happy to get back to a place where we could split a dinner for $2 USD and be full all night. After barely a day though, we did what we do best when it comes to big cities, and got out of it. We’d heard about the beautiful landscape in Cotopaxi National Park, and wanted to see it for ourselves.
Our driver was talkative on the way there, every few minutes, casual as you please he’d gesture out the window and name a dozen volcanoes peppering the landscape, green hills fortified with ash from previous eruptions. He told us about the different flora we’d see in Cotopaxi - blueberries, cacti, the different names for pine trees where the needles hung up and where the needles hung down. He told us about the animals we might see too - pumas, Andean condors with a three meter wingspan, wild horses. Sure enough, just a few minutes into the park he pulled the car to a stop and out of the heavy-hanging fog we saw a team of wild horses emerge from the haze.
We met a rancher in the park and went out horseback riding for ourselves, he didn’t speak a lick of English nor us Spanish, but we got by on cognates and hand gestures. It was more relaxed here, we’d gone riding before where you have to stay in a straight line, single file behind the guide feeling like you have no control of where you’re going. But here, he didn’t care, we could go as fast as we wanted and after a few minutes he and the rest of our group were just specks in the fog.
We rode through volcanoes and streams, shrubs and cacti and old, dry bones peppering the ground at our feet. The landscape was desolate, gloomy, foreign, and going through the mist and fog on horseback made it feel even more ethereal.
South America was off to a good start.