There I finally was - a Master's degree in my hand and ready to meet the corporate world of life. However, before taking on new responsibilities a few friends and I had been planning for some time that we should try to make an extensive and adventurous trip to some part of the world. After contemplating Asia and other alternatives we ended up choosing Ecuador as our travel destination. It was to become one of the best trips we have ever made.
Four weeks in Ecuador - an amazingly versatile country with mountains, the jungle, the coast, highlands and lowlands all encompassing an area not larger than the state of Nevada. We arrived in Quito, which is the world’s second highest national capital at 2850 meters and with 1 million inhabitants surrounded by beautiful mountain ridges and volcanoes. It took a few days to acclimatise to the altitude during which we made a few hikes to the surrounding mountains, such as Condor de Rumi (4000m) and Pichincha (4800m). However, the ultimate climbing adventure was Cotopaxi, which is one of the world's highest active volcanoes at 5897 meters above sea level. The climb started from a refuge (4800 meters) at midnight in the midst of a light snowfall. It was quite an unforgettable experience to struggle up the steep trail ice axe in hand, crampons on our feet and the headlamp occasionally illuminating crevasses opening up in the snow on both sides of the trail in the middle of the darkness. Unfortunately, my friends had to give up the climb and I was therefor the only one to make it to the top of the volcano. At 5897 meters it really was a top of the world feeling to see the landscape and clouds lying hundreds of meters under your feet combined with the exhilarating comprehension of succeeding in the demanding ascent!
After Cotopaxi we visited the jungle near the cities of Lago Agrio and Cuyabeno where we fished Piranhas (as well as swam in the same waters), hiked in the rain forest, ate ants off trees and saw a multitude of different animal species such as tarantellas, anacondas, caimans, dolphins, monkeys and plenty of colorful birds. Our travels also took us to the Indian market in Otavalo, the beautiful coastal surfing village of Montañita, Manta and Puerto Lopez. The breathtaking beauty of the nature and the hospitality and warmth of all the people we meet was unforgettable and a big thank you goes to all the Ecuadorian people who helped us - especially family Duran and friends! Ecuador really is an impressive country with a distinctive culture, rich biodiversity and an endless array of possibilities and opportunities that I hope to experience soon again in the future!