Camping in Cotopaxi: “This Sure Seems Like A Lot of Effort to Sleep Outside”

I love to camp. But let me tell you, camping Ecua style is a whole different ball game. What started as a couple of friends throwing around the idea of getting out of the city turned into a fourteen person debauchery. Under the impression that we had two cars, twelve of us gathered at Lisa’s apartment, each laiden with excessive gear to camp in the cold for the weekend at the foot of Volcan Cotopaxi.

View of Cotopaxi from the Lagoon

Trying to coordinate fourteen people coming from all over the city on a Saturday morning was difficult enough (what with everyone remembering last minute errands they needed to run, forgetting things, needing to weave their own sweaters, etc), but when we all finally arrived, we discovered unspecified “drama” had gone down and we were left with only one car.

Now normally taking a bus wouldn’t have been a big deal, but you can only take a bus to the park entrance, and from there you need a car or you will be walking for hours in the dark. On top of that, you can’t get cell reception, so if anyone were to take the bus we wouldn’t know how to coordinate meeting up, as there is no actual camping area.

Right, so, camping attempt fail? Ha. What sort of sissys do you think we are? Fourteen people can fit in one car, come on!


Six Guys in the Truck Bed with the Gear

Seven Girls and One Lucky Guy in the Front

As we set off and settled in to the numbness in our limbs, we were feeling pretty impressed with our efforts, until we realized we were missing something. Someone is more accurate, and make that two someones. Hilde and Xavier! They would be waiting for us on the side of the road some 20 minutes outside of Quito! We should have realized it was almost too easy to fit all of us in the car, we were only twelve! Having decided it was futile to warn them what was coming, we watched the shock on their faces as we slowed on the highway, pulled them by their limbs into the last available pockets of space, and continued driving.

And then came the rain. Hard. Having heard the park closes at 4 pm to new visitors, we couldn’t waste more time stopping to cover the gear (and the boys in the back), so with mystery hands moving about like the writhing polyps of Ursula’s garden in The Little Mermaid, we managed to pull a tarp from the gear on the roof and cover our goods while continuing to speed along the highway. Despite feeling a little bit guilty for our more comfortable position inside the car, the girls finally decided to shut out the boys and close the back window, as water from the tarp was draining down our necks. Thankful for the remnants of old school chivalry that led to our lofty position, we started chatting and enjoying the comparative tranquility of our ride, until about 30 minutes later when we realized: hang on, it’s a bit too quiet back there. What’s going on? Are they alive? Are they miserable? Can they breathe under that thing?

We hurried to open the window and lift the tarp only to find six guys grinning from ear to ear. What were they up to??

Puntas is what. A strong “that sh*t will eff you up” kind of Ecuadorian alcohol that Wilson had brought along. They were drunk. But they were happy. Which got us thinking, and thinking, as it often does, got us drinking as well.

As we stopped for a bathroom break, the evening chill began to settle in and we realized we were fourteen wet and cold people lacking nature’s natural warmers: firewood and alcohol. We stopped on a random road and everyone took off in different directions, all on missions. Although we were in what seemed to be a bit of a ghost town, everyone returned from behind abandoned buildings and random corners with empty bladders, firewood, and alcohol. Missions accomplished.

We reached the park just before dark, where we soon encountered our next obstacle. The guards didn’t want to let us in. Partially because it was late, partially because half of us were gringos and they wanted us to pay them, aaaand partially because one of the boys fell over in front of them. Edison, whose car we were in, got back in the driver’s seat and announced that we weren’t allowed to be there as he simultaneously sped us off further into the park. Next thing I know everyone is out of the car, trying to move a giant tree that had fallen over so we could drive into the woods, replace the tree and cover our tracks, effectively hiding ourselves from the guards.

Sara, “Guys, I don’t know if you know this, but I workout.”

We parked the truck, and raced against the setting sun to get all of our tents set up and a fire started before it got too dark. Despite the wet firewood and Lukes hindering (though well intentioned) attempts to “help”, Dan finally got a fire going and we all tucked in around the warmth for a night of fireside jams, an Ecua attempt at s’mores, hot dogs inadvertently left in their plastic wrap, and (the most important factor of all) good company.

(NOTE: Due to cold and alcohol, some flesh and gear were charred as a result of this campfire. Campfires created as a result of this post are to be assumed at your own risk.)

That’s Wilson upfront, the man responsible for the     Puntas.

The next day we wandered around the park, enjoying the fresh air and open space, sans complications, before heading back to the concrete jungle of Quito to resume our city lives. Until the next time that is.

The Crew

40 thoughts on “Camping in Cotopaxi: “This Sure Seems Like A Lot of Effort to Sleep Outside”

  1. Its wonderfull that all of you enjoy Ecuador`s scenery. Its a excellent. it’s great that they have created this page to show your adventures.
    Continue in this way dear shannon and i hope we… Ecuadorian`s people triying well and we can create beautifuls remembers and moments.
    Congratulations and this page is fantastic.

  2. NICE PAGE! I’ve always though that people who travel are people who know a lot…those who learn to not judge, people who know how to live in peace!!!’
    I love everyone who loves my country!! who loves nature♥
    I really like people who love traditional way of being in my Ecuador: ‘enjoying puntas’
    I’m from Manabí (Manta city), where Puntas are from!! 😀 (please vocalise this word correctly in order to avoid misunderstandings hahahaha)
    My mommy knows how to make it from passion fruit mmmmm yumi yumi hip hip 😀
    Keep enjoying life!!

  3. oh! I really liked this site is very interesting because I could learn a lot about my country has.I’m Ecuadorian however I don’t know many parts of Ecuador.  I really liked a lot is very interesting and exciting because when I was reading I felt like I was sharing your experience and living there.

    Please continue writing is good that I will become your fan : DD,,,,,,, I will visit Cotopaxi and possibly camping there ….
    I hope to have a thrilling experience like yours

  4. I think that the experience was almost like a fairy tale!!! I guess that all of you had a great time and had an incredible memory to count in the future to your children and grandchildren. Life is one and you have to enjoy. When people are young have more opportunities to travel and visit tourist attractions because we don’t have serious responsibilities. A trip gives you wisdom and only people who travel around the world can meet and enjoy different cultures. The best investment one can make is to travel because spending money on material things is meaningless.

    Ecuador is a country that has natural beauty as rivers, waterfalls, mountains, snow and more. The meeting with nature is a kind of meeting with god because in this place you can fell in peace, relax and without worries. Many times people who visit us from abroad give us an example as we do not value what we have and prefer to visit other countries before know the beautiful places that our country offers.

    In my personal opinion I don’t know Cotopaxi and the people tell me that it is one of the marvelous places that Ecuador has. I think a picnic with friends, eating hot dogs, enjoy a campfire and most of all drink “puntas” can be very funny things that I still have not done yet. The idea of having traveled so many people in the car I find funny because you enjoyed and the day was not allowed to sour under any circumstances.

    Unluckily is quite common in my country that the tourist attractions close early and the managers want to abuse of foreigners by charging a high price for the entry but I hope that this situation change with the pass of time.

    Enjoy your life and I hope that you keep informing us about the trips.
    The next time invite us!!! jajajajaja

  5. I find it interesting know how you are enjoying and leraning to live, I think of no better way to enrich the mmind and the soul when are traveling.

    The fact that you have visited our country Ecuador in not an accident, it must have a purpose and I am sure that despite negative ssituations that have lived in this short time at the end of the day you will realize that Ecuador is not onlyu a country of many social problems and of beautifull contrast in its landscapes, but also where there are people with human qualities, traditions, that working to fight every days for a future better.

    keep your mind open , and do not forget that you have a friend more in Ecuador.
    your page is nice!!

    Paulina Rubio

  6. That’s an amazing story you have lived, I appreciate you have shared this experience with us; because of many of us, still don’t know the incredible landscapes that Ecuador has, and thanks to you we can realize that we have some places for visiting and to adventure.

    Congratulations for this trip, you Guys are very brave and determined to accomplish your goals, is something worth imitating.

    Klever Torres

  7. Hi Shannon!
    I belive that all the trips that you had made where in my country is such a wonderful experience.Really Ecuador has unique places trhat you can visit how I see you went camping to

    Cotopaxi but that weather is so cold there and were very lucky becoser how i see it did rain you.
    I hope you still visit my country. I think you could visit the amazon and the cost because there are more nice places there.

    You can come with me some day to a trip i Love traveling and camping to.

  8. It really is a great adventure. I’d like to go camping in the Cotopaxi too . With puntass jeje.

    I hope you can live again that opportunity.

    If you want i can recommend you that one day you can climb to the summit of Cotopaxi is really a great experience.

    Its amazing that you could enjoy ours contry more than that. Continue writting this tipes of adventures that are so wonderfuls.

  9. Hello Shannon …..

    It’s a very cool anecdote.

    I also like to experience new things, I go out with my friends at different places.

    I visited the Cotopaxi, It was nice. I remember when I went to Cotopaxi

    As an anecdote, I was one of the many eager to climb Cotopaxi without knowing anything. Naive and 100% emotion, but I thought winning the Cotopaxi.

    It’s a long way but, the time passes very quickly when you’re having fun with your friends.

    teacher, good luck. and visit some more places….. XD : )

  10. Hey Shannon

    Those kind of trips are always the same, no one knows what is going to happen after we take the decision to do it; specially, if you hadn’t been on paramo. Also, People should know that before get in to paramo, specially for the first time, it is needed to to ask for permission to nature. If you do it, you will have a good day, if not you will have the worst wheather there.

    The first time I went to Cotopaxi, I almost die. Some time after, I learn that I have to ask for permission to Pacha Mama to enter, specially if you want to go with a special friend (it sounds hippie, but it is true). However, You had fun and that is the most important thing.

    If you want to go to another paramo, try to go to Anteojos o Cayambe. Each of them has a wonderfull waterfalls and a lot of lagoons. If you want to go camping, they would be a good options.

    It is nice to know that not only ecuadorian but also foreing people enjoy drinking puntas, the most typical drink… Cheers.

    I hope that I will read more about you and tha places you have visited in Ecuador.


  11. The experience of camping in the Cotopaxi is truly unforgettable, with my family we used to go camping near the lake but always hastle our tents are behind a bush to break the cold wind that runs in the morning. If you go a cold summer day is stronger but you can see a spectacular starry sky where you can clearly see the constellations. This landscape is unique and worth knowing.

    If you want to know other places like this you can go to Antisana where you can fishing and camping too.

    Let me know if you visit another places of Ecuador.

    Paulina Rubio

  12. It’s great to read about a nice experience of “gringos” in Ecuador, and it is a shame of me to realize that I haven’t visited Cotopaxi yet! I must go there soon this year, maybe my trip won’t be as fun as yours, but I’ll make sure to take puntas with me, they seem to be necessary in that freezing cold weather! hahaha

    I hope you can visit many others Ecuadorian natural treasures before you leave, this country has magic !!! and with extra credit or not I will continue reading about your journeys , and maybe one day I wish that I could travel as much as you 🙂


  13. It was a great adventure for all of you. I think it´s very excited to meet natural places where you can find peace or relax yourselves. The adventure that all of you experimented was incredible. You drank “puntas” how I saw :).The alcohol gets you dizzi. I hope you had fun at Cotopaxi´s park.

    Here in Ecuador, there are a lot of places that you can visit. For example in the coast, you have a mild weather which is perfect to stay. The mountains in the sierra are a perfect adventure for walking or climbing. You can try going to teleferico and then walking to the “Rucu Pichincha” untill the top :). In the top you will find ice and a cold wind despite the fact that you can see the entire city of quito. It´s a wonderful view!.

    The effort all of you put was incredible. I wish there will be more experiences you could have. One day just set the alarm and go to get another adventure :). I wish you the best for your life and take care each other.

    Luiggi Heredia.

  14. Hi Shannon.

    It is good to know that you are traveling around Ecuador. It is a small country but has plenty of things to do, plus a variety of climates in a very short distance.

    Baños is also known as Baños de Agua Santa, in honor to the Virgin Mary.
    I see that you like adventure sports, and if you go further south to Puyo city you will find rafting, canopy and some other outdoor sports. Local people believe that thermal baths are good for bones and stress, maybe you should try it next time.

    Guaranda is good to visit in Carnival. There is parades, dancers and lots of water, so make sure to take an extra shirt because everyone will end up soaked.

    I hope you have started your work successfully, after this trip to the provinces of Tungurahua and Bolívar.

    All the best

    Ximena Velasco.

  15. Hi Shannon.
    My apologies, this comment is the trip to Cotopaxi.

    Trips with friends are fun and this time was no exception. The first thing that caught my attention was the photo with the 12 people in the van, still do not understand how you managed to get all … and there were 2 more.

    The trip to Cotopaxi is one of my favorites because the scenery is very picturesque and on the road you can see the mountains of the Andes.

    The surprises are always there, on an adventure like this (the rain, the guards, the paramo and the tree blocking the way), but more important is that the guys were able to meet its target of camping at the foothills of the Cotopaxi volcano , with the heat of a fire, a delicious hot dog and the typical Ecuadorian liquor from the Sierra: “PUNTAS”.

    I am glad that the journey had a happy ending.

    Ximena Velasco.

  16. good adventure shannon.
    it is realy cool that you traveled around Ecuador and also meet new people here. “Puntas is a good option to drink with your friends. But also if you drive a car you have to think that one person has to drive it. Half of you are gringos so is a custom that guards and policemen ask for more money than ecuadorian people. It´s bad, i know it but most of you have more money .

    a good option to travel to the mountains is by tren, you will take it in a tren station in Chimbacalle. The ticket costs around $10 I think so but also it depends the place thtra you want to go. I hope you enjoyed your trip with these guys. Gook luke next time.

  17. Hey Sahnnon I hope you climbed to the Cotopaxi that so a wonderful experience. I been there once and its so cold up there. if you dont do that you should try to visit other volcanos like the Antisana or the Chimborazo or the Cayambe. i think You do great trips and crazy to LOL…!!!!

    I hope that you still writing this histories and letting us know how is the experience living in diferent contries!! =]

  18. jajajaja!!!!.
    It´s really funny to read, but there shuld be unconfortable for the poor boys to travel in that way, It`s easy to understand why they got drunk…. “there is nothing that alcohol couldn`t help to”…and being in the back of the car is nothing easy especially if there isnot space… but at the end it seems as an worthy trip.

    I consider the next time you shuld take a longer trip because you couyld reach the refuge and the “paramos” in the uper part of the pine forests…. and a great month for doing that is august because it doesn`t rain at all and the landscape is really wonderfull, but be aware of the wind, because this month is especially windy.

    These stories are really nice, tks for writing down.


  19. Hello Shannon

    Nice experiences!!!, I have been there sometimes. The first time was when I was a child. Despite the cold, we enjoyed the adventure to be near of snow and doing winter´s sports.

    The last time that I were there I realized the ice is melting more every year, In fact there are not snow in the first refuge and to reach snow we had to walk a lot.

    Do you know where is the best season to go there ? The last time that I went there, I spent three or four hours to arrive and when we got there, there was a dense fog, overcast sky and we could not enjoy the trip.

  20. I can’t imagine how hard it is to sleep outside in such cold weather!!! But after seeing all the fun you had I want to have a similar experience too, the problem is that my firends aren’t brave enough to do it. I really need to convince them.
    I love the way you tell us how fun you have ….. Cotopaxi is beautiful but if you want to taste a delicious breakfast you should go to a restaurant called ” la finca” near Latacunga. The place is so beautiful and have the best chocolate from Ecuador jiji, you are going to love it.

  21. I think this is very interesting adventure for Shannon because she likes adventures with her ​​friends as Lisa or Hilde who was my teacher in advance two.
    I think the Cotopaxi volcano is fun to go camping with friends in the woods especially because you find many adventures as fallen trees or animals that are behind your back but you do not realize that
    I’m happy that Shannon was fun in the snow.

    • Hi Shannon,
      Knowing the nature surrounding the Cotopaxi, is an experience like locals and foreigners. If you add to this adventure a group of friends, the inevitable PUNTAS, enough rain and a great sense of humor, it becomes unforgettable.
      Despite the fact that the difficulties were not programed, all returned safely.
      I’m sure you think to come back and you have to invite to Wilson who does not forget to share yours PUNTAS again. 🙂

    • It is really amazing 2 read about this crazy adventure…
      When u go out with friends is obviously that u have 2 be prepared 2 what is going to happen next haha…
      In their case, nothing more important than the delicious “PUNTAS” to ease the chill of the night. Is interesting that foreigners can know our culture that way.
      However, I love ur pics, combined with Ecua beautiful landscapes :)…

      PDTA: I hope ur next trip can develop without problems 😀

  22. Cotopaxi the highest active volcano in the world. I love that all of you had a great time. I think is beautiful to see i you doing some truly Ecuadorian things like fitting 7 girls in one car. 🙂
    You are a truly Ecuadorian now.
    Like they always say in the Ecuadorian buses. In the back (of a full bus) fits more and more. That’s why in the buses in Ecuador people are popping out of the windows.

  23. I think that is a really interesting way of do tourism in ecuador, especially if you don’t know what will happen. Sleep in the faldas of Cotopaxi sounds extreme, because the cold is really hard but if you have Puntas possible you can sleep. Jajaja
    PD: the puntas are good but the Pajaro Azul is more powerful than the puntas

  24. Hello,
    It is unfortunate that the first experiences in Quito were tragic although our local authorities are campaigning to promote respect to the foreigner living in our beautiful capital city.
    I share with you, a true friend is a hidden gem and I hope you find some more and they show you a lot of good things of my dear Quito-bonito.
    Our beaches are beautiful, when the end of this cycle I recommend that you travel to the province of Manabi and you will discover the best beaches in Ecuador.

  25. Shannon, it´s nice to see that you like to travel in my country. Traveling for me is the best way to know the culture of each country that you´ve been. Each place is special and has its magic just when a person has a free soul.

  26. Hello Shannon

    OMG.. Trip in Cotopaxi seems like a great adventure, it was interesting the way how much people could get into of a car,, wouuu
    When I was reading that part of the trip I was realy intrerested how it was to end. It shuold have been very exciting because not only the picks but also the story are realy fun.
    I hope that Shannon and the rest of the group have enjoyed that trip as many as I reading this cool story.

  27. I think the most amazing experience of camping is with alcohol and friends. Despite the cold climate and all the trash around, it’s funny spend time with crazy people that understand u…
    Quito has a lot of places to visit and enjoy, but always with alcohol the life is fun 😉

    I love puntas but when I’m too drunk LOL 😛 … And I recommend u Chugchuguaso that is an alcohol drink born in Puyo. It is the most strong alcohol that I taste is soo good.

  28. Here we can see the spectacular view of one of the most beautiful mountain in Ecuador. The Cotopaxi is an amazing province of Ecuador there I have a lot of nice moments whit my family, friends. The picture above that shows a nice landscape bring me a lot of emotions. I want to go there to have more moments to remember in the future.

    The rest of pictures show The friendship that we can develop with people that we considerate friends. This kinds of trips give us a lot of experience and anecdotes that we never forget. We have to enjoy our life because this demonstrated that we have or I personally think that we have a lot to live, know even dream.

    This picture inspire us to have more adventures in our life and improve the relationship with people that are near us.

    This a nice web site where we can know about the world and its wonders.

  29. hi Shannon
    it is a really funny story, sometimes things do not go as you plan but I think those improvised trips ar the best….. the important thing is to have fun with friends and see the good side of the problems. as we say in Ecuador” where one enters, enter two”
    I think the hardest part of this trip was to try to move those trees and keep the five senses after those drinks…….but well I think that after enjoying the beautiful landscapes all worth it

    att: Cecibel Morales

  30. it is very cool that you traveled around Ecuador and also meet new people here. Drinking when you are traveling it is not a good idea but if you drive a car you have to think that one person has to drive it. Half. another option to travel some parts of Ecuador is by tren, you will take it in a tren station in Chimbacalle. The trip to Cotopaxi is interesting because the scenery is amazing and on the road the trip you can see a lot of mountains….

  31. Campping is one of the best opcions for to do in Ecuador.
    You shouldn’nt drint Puntas in a place like this. A interesting thing and the most important that You should enjoy of the nature and relax. Before of go a anyplace ask the prices. Exist people that ask more money because you are foreign

  32. Your experiences whit your friends in Cotopaxi volcano are really funny, I wish that I were whit you to enjoy this adventure because Cotopaxi is one of the most beatiful places in my country. I find it amazing that so many people have been able to travel in one car 🙂 ..but I’m sure you enjoyed it. ahhhh and the food looks very delicious. Great adventure!!!!

  33. It is wonderful that you enjoyed the cotopaxi company, is very strong the cotopaxi cold, but sometimes in full moon the cotopaxi is most friendly, and it is less cold, the native people say that the moon is who can light up the secret way where you can find the human form off the cotopaxi, this place is called moon neck which in Quechua means cotopaxi. I hope that you continue knowing this country and its montains and I hope that some day you can let me show you some magics places that I could know travelling and can show you the ecuadorian culture with its ceremonies.

  34. Hi Shannon!!
    All things that you said in this post, it is interesting and funny because you shared this experience with friends. Although I live in Ecuador many years, I do not know the foot of Volcan Cotopaxi and I hope to know the foot of volcan Cotopaxi in the next years and I will share the experience with my friends.
    If it is possible, you can describe other experiences about the volcanos in Ecuador and you will give us a list of equipment that is necessary for the camping in this areas.


  35. Cotopaxi Volcano is definitely unpredictable. That´s why it´s name means “Moon´s neck” in quichua and since Moon is a woman… is as unpredictable and mysterious as we are. My grandpa used to tell some stories about Cotopaxi, they all were about how jealous the volcano can feel if you ignore the basic rules it set up for the visitors. The most interesting was about a young man who started climbing the mountain without it’s permission, which basically was to scatter “puntas” on the ground and asking for permission to enter, but this guy just made fun on that custom and after that day he gone out and his family is still searching him, even under the stones on Cotopaxi. That teaches us that some rules (even when they are weird) must be considered, specially the nature- related ones.

  36. If you got to camp Ecuadorian style, you really had fun! And we can see that in your post. Maybe next time you should try other destinations, probably somewhere less cold. If you still want to visit other beautiful places in the high lands, I strongly recommend Quilotoa, which is a lake in a volcano’s crater. It has a great view and lots of places to spend the night whether camping or under roof.

  37. wow I wish i had a great experience like that with my friends in spite of the “drama”. its really interesting that 40 people visit a part of our beautiful country like cotopaxi. I´d never tasted puntas, but mu friends really enjoy that kind of drink, so i hope that everybody drunk that with responsable. and i hope that everybody had a good time and visit new places in Ecuador like Salinas,etc. If i had time i would visit Cotopaxi, so you are lucky because i heard that cotopaxi is beautiful

  38. Tamara Plaza
    wow! camping is not as easy as it sounds! bat as an adventure with friends is the best !!!
    It was unconfortable to travel in just one car all those people but an unforgettable experience. If everything had been easy, it wouldn´t have been fun. Our famous “Puntas” helped a lot to avoid cold , and it is a solution for many other things including , cold , depression, toothache, loneliness , etc. I don´t like the idea of some Ecuadorians about borrow extra money for foreign people , sadly it is a bad custom sorry!!
    I hope all of you have enjoyed the nature, fresh air and the cold of Cotopaxi !!!

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