Secret Garden Cotopaxi

This is probably going to be the hardest blog post to write, not least because we have thousands of photographs, hundreds of good times, and we had the heaviest of hearts leaving this place. We made some of the best friends of our trip and we really found our slice of heaven in South America. We are writing this full of emotion due to the nostalgia of missing namely Victor, Pablo, Sophia and Patrick. But the absolute contentedness and surreal homely feel that we found three and a half thousand meters above sea level, not too far from the equator, wrapped up in an isolated part of Ecuador brings smiles to our faces whenever we think about it.

Situated just outside Cotopaxi National Park, the Secret Garden hostel enjoys stunning views of the surrounding volcanoes. A home away from home it has a lovely, relaxed feel. A cosy fireplace dominates the main social area and five dogs huddle together, tired after their daily long walk. A giant hammock is located with breathtaking views of the Cotopaxi volcano, its almost perfect shape never ceasing to amaze. Hobbit holes give the sight a unique charm.

While it would take pages to detail everything we got up to over the month, here is a quick rundown of achievements gained while living there:

• Three volcanoes summited—one of them over 20 times between us
• Amazing friends
• An insight into farming life in the hills of Ecuador
• One film made
• Experience riding a llama (Ali)
• Learning how to slack line—sort of (Rose)

While working here for the month our main job was to guide two of the local hikes: one was through the river to a few waterfalls and the second was a longer, harder hike to the summit of the extinct volcano Pasochoa at 4200m. We really enjoyed the physical exercise every day and luckily we got really well fed too. Other work included chopping wood, painting and building odd things for the hostel.

We were working with the manager Victor, an absolutely amazing Argentinian who made us feel so welcome and actually had a very similar sense of humour to us. The lovely Sophia was the other manager and our personal yoga teacher and joint fun times beer drinker. We were also working with Pablo, a vegan-raggaeton obsessed French guy who provided a lot of entertainment, along with Patrick the Swiss guy that taught us some Swiss German that we still haven’t had confirmation is actually true. Gunnar was a very energetic Norwegian guy who had so much enthusiasm for everything. Jeff was a lovely, super fast hiker that broke us into our work and beer drinking well. We are definitely going to miss all of them. The local staff, especially Oliva and Janet, were particularly welcoming. Don Juan, the gardener, was in his 80s and strong as an ox, always saying hello with the biggest of smiles.

When the month came to an end we struggled to stay goodbye. We really battled with the decision to stay on in a more permanent capacity. However, we decided eventually to drag ourselves away and head south towards Peru, hoping to miss the flooding that had been devastating the country.

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