An early departure from Quito takes us south to the Cotopaxi National Park. We will stop at a school in this rural community and meet the students and teachers. Depending on the school's needs, we will get to work, and past projects have included fixing classrom materials (chairs and desks) and facilities, painting, and designing educational displays/signs. No experience required except for a willingness to smile and laugh!
In the afternoon, we travel to the Hacienda El Porvenir, a fully-functioning hacienda and our base for the next two nights, set high in the Andean paramo with spectacular views of Cotopaxi. A delicious lunch of local dishes awaits us, and the afternoon is free to explore the hacienda grounds. There are a couple of self-guided paths to the Manto Blanco Waterfall and to lookouts with nice views of the mountains and surrounding landscape. You can also participate in some of the agricultural activities, such as milking the cows or cleaning out the stables!
Click here to watch Youtube video to learn more about El Porvenir and the Tierra del Volcan's area near Cotopaxi.
A brief orientation is given in the morning at Hacienda El Porvenir to get acquainted with the horses. We head out on horseback in the spirit of the Chagras (Ecuadorian highland cowboys) to visit the foothills of Rumiñahui Volcano, riding side by side with herds of wild horses and bulls. As we cross the paramo, enjoy the bird and wildlife, and the native guides will share their knowledge of medicinal plants. Lunch will be prepared at the hacienda, and in the afternoon, tour the hacienda's grounds or hike to El Mirador, a lookout with vistas of twelve volcanoes on a clear day.
After enjoying the views of the volcano over the last two days, we drive for 45 minutes into the Cotopaxi National Park. An hour hike takes us to the climbing hut (refugio) and a nearby glacier at 4,800 meters (14,760 ft) above sea level.
Continue by vehicle to visit Laguna de Limpiopungo, a shallow Andean lake with great birdwatching for a hike and to enjoy a packed lunch. In the late afternoon, return to Quito.