Friday, February 21, 2014

Traveling with kids: Cotopaxi

After our short stay in Quito (which due to a cold on Kalah's part was almost completely sleepless) we hopped in a van we hired and drove the 3.5 to 4 or so hour drive to Cotopaxi.

The ride flew by. The scenery was gorgeous. The girls were amazing. We were all excited for what lay ahead (even though we were sleep deprived).

Tesa holding Kalah on part of our van ride.

Upon our arrival to the Secret Garden, Cotopaxi, we realized what a special place this was. No cell signal. No wi-fi. A view of Cotopaxi from every room. Bright colors, open fields, lots of animals, plants, and flowers. It was truly an escape, and a welcomed one.

The view from the dorm room.

At the Secret Garden there is limited electricity (the dorm, for example, had no electricity), shared bathrooms (for the most part at least, and they even a composting toilet), a garden used for cooking, and all home cooked meals (included in your room cost).

One of the cabins at the Secret Garden

The view from the grounds of the hostel.

We got unpacked, had lunch, then headed out on a short guided hike (led by the hostel staff).

The outbound led of the hike was beautiful. Tesa tried to carry Kesh in her backpack, but we quickly realized that she was too tall for the pack that we own. So she carried Kalah, I carried Kesh, and this is how we hiked (uphill for about 40 minutes). We were hiking to a waterfall, but the last 10 minutes or so of the hike were downhill and quite tricky. So I waited with the girls at the top while our guide and Tesa hiked to the falls. 

Tesa carrying Kalah in the Ergo.

Kesh and me on the hike up.

As we started down we saw dark clouds rolling in. Then we heard the thunder. Then the storm was right on top of us, lighting was striking all around, thunder was booming, and it was hailing. 

We were okay with the whole thing until we got to an open field. Open field and strike lightening do not mix well. So, we made a run for it. Kesh was pretty brave considering the conditions, and we all made it back safe and sound. Cold, but safe and sound.

What it looked like as we started heading down
(the dark clouds were behind us)

Finally down off of the mountain! *phew*

Looking back the way we had come from. Completely stormed over.

The hail (it's kind of hard to see)

We had tried to reserve a private room, there were none available for our travel dates. So we opted to give the dorm a go. 

The dorm room at the Secret Garden, Cotopaxi

Now, I'm not saying if you have kids you should avoid a dorm. However, if you're traveling alone with a baby, a preschooler, and one of them is sick, avoid the dorm like the plague. 

Kalah screamed up until midnight on the first night, so I ended up carrying both kids outside in the dark from our cabin to the shared space and sleeping on the couch (yes, with both kids) so as not to disturb the other dorm dwellers. Pretty much a nightmare. Thank goodness the couch was super soft.

After our experience on our short hike Tesa and I decided it wasn't worth trying to take the girls up to the glacier. So she booked a glacier hike by herself, and I decided to hang out around the hostel with Kesha, feed the animals, explore, use the jacuzzi, etc. We had a wonderful wonderful day!

Views of the Secret Garden

Views of the Secret Garden and one of the hostel dogs.

Views of the Secret Garden.

Plants on the grounds of the hostel.

Plants on the grounds of the hostel.

Plants on the grounds of the hostel.

Plants on the grounds of the hostel.

Cuy... they are not pets.

Canela the calf.

Kesha and Canela.

Running to feed the llamas.


Llama face.

Jacuzzi time!!!

For Kesha to have space, and more importantly, freedom, was such a gift. She ran around outside, coming and going as she pleased. She picked flowers, looked for bugs, fed animals, socialized with people of all ages and cultural backgrounds. I can't think of a more positive experience for a preschool-aged child than the Secret Garden at Cotopaxi.

A shoutout...
Our second night one of the hostel workers took pity on me and put me and the girls in a private room for the same rate as the dorm so that we wouldn't have to worry that Kalah's screaming was waking everyone up. Truly superior service was given to us by the staff at the Secret Garden. And as a mom traveling alone with her two kids, I greatly appreciated this kind gesture.


To give you an idea of costs...

  • In all for our private transportation in a van from Quito to Cotopaxi, Cotopaxi to Mindo, Mindo to the airport in Quito we paid $300 total for the driver, the van, and the gas.
  • Our dorm room was about $40 per person with all of our meals and snacks included. It also included unlimited coffee, tea, and drinking water. They did not charge me for either child and still provided all meals for Kesha. (if you split a private room between two people it also ends up being about $40 per person)
  • Our hike to the waterfalls behind the hostel were included in our accommodation rate.
  • Antesa's glacier hike cost her $40 including transportation to/from Cotopaxi, a guide, the hike, and a snack.

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