Volcano 101: A Mad-Hatter’s Guide to Cliffhangers in Ecuador

For us the cliffhanger was all too literal.

Our post-Christmas trip to Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes got off on the wrong foot, so to speak.  Or rather it ended that way–sort of.

It began well enough, however.

We’d had a lovely holiday with guests from the US and a houseful of new friends on Christmas day itself.  The food was fabulous.  I’d baked several pumpkin pies.  Sara had roasted a massive turkey.  The potatoes were yummy.  The stuffing was even better.

Well-fed and ready for an adventure, we set off early Friday morning on the Pan American Highway, the “autopista” of the Western Hemisphere, an intercontinental street that stretches from the northern-most reaches of Alaska to the southern-most tip of Argentina. (Okay, it’s not exactly a “street,” but I love alliteration.)

Day 1 took us from Cuenca to Chimborazo, the highest peak in Ecuador, at around 20,500 feet or nearly 6,300 meters.  The weather was glorious.  The roads were perfectly paved.  There were few other vehicles in sight.  In short, it was a delightful day to launch our volcano vacation, one that eventually took us on to Cotopaxi, the second highest mountain in Ecuador (at around 19,400 feet or nearly 6,000 meters) and Quito, the country’s capital and second largest city.

Below, photos (Sara and I took) tell the tale better than I could ever hope to with words alone.

(I’m too busy hanging on for dear life–and chasing my hat!)

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Vicuña are the wild ancestors of alpaca, found in the alpine highlands of the Andes.

Vicuña are the wild ancestors of alpaca, found in the alpine highlands of the Andes.

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Kathy and Sara at the famous Vista Hermosa Restaurant in Quito–


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How about you?  Are you and your family living and loving well in the New Year?  Hats off to you and the mad milliners in your life.

(Not all images were shot in the order they appear here.  I’ve rearranged some to benefit the narrative.  The llama photos, for example, were taken atop Pichincha Volcano, near Quito.  More from Quito in upcoming posts.)

110 thoughts on “Volcano 101: A Mad-Hatter’s Guide to Cliffhangers in Ecuador

  1. THAT WAS THE BEST POST EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Your face as you are leaving and heeding the warning is PRICELESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Kathy this was WELL worth the effort. 🙂 I’m laughing all the way through and wishing there was more!!!!

    HUGS and LAUGHTER from Ohio! 🙂


    • Glad you got a kick out of that photo. And I really was running after a hat–just a beige visor that blended in with the mountain. Had to liven it up–so you could SEE it! Great to hear from you, Emily. Hope all is well in Montreal!


  2. Beautiful photographs enhanced with humor. Not easy to do, but you pulled it off perfectly. I like the way the clouds seem to cling to the top of the mountain.

    Happy New Year to you both.


    • Oh, I’m so pleased you enjoyed it. I suppose I’ll get better at this. Spent most of my time figuring out how to add the text. Next time I’ll focus more on actual dialogue. I appreciate the affirmation. That means a lot coming from you!!!

      Yeah, the clouds over the mountains are fun to watch. Happy New Year to you, as well! Thanks for stopping by!


  3. OK … I’m laughing out loud!

    Thank you for taking us on your volcano holiday. When I was in the seventh grade I choose Ecuador to write a report on. I was fascinated by the volcanos. Now I am entertained and fascinated by your reports.

    Sorry you lost your shoe.




    • Oh, Robert, thank you. You’re a sweetie. I’m sorry I lost that stupid shoe, also. They were my favorite. At any rate, glad you enjoyed the post. Great to hear from you this morning. Hope you’re staying warm. Haven’t been following the weather this week.


    • Ha, ha! Glad you were “blown” away. I did lose my shoe, but not inside the volcano–down over the edge instead. It got blown away. It was SO incredibly windy up there, I could hardly believe it! Thanks for stopping by. I LOVE hearing from you!


  4. Great photos of you two loons buttering up llamas and vicuna. I was fearing that someone might have gotten spat upon by Mama Llama. One day you’ll find your lost Croc along with the dozens of socks I’ve sacrificed at the laundromat through the years.


    • Yeah–glad my socks weren’t blown off. But, really, where do those things go? I didn’t get spit on, but my friend Juan did when we were in Cajas National Park a couple of months ago. Glad you enjoyed the crazy photos of us loony ladies–though “ladies” we aren’t. Hope your week is going well, my friend. Stay warm.


  5. Kathy – Clearly you and Sara have gone around the bend and I’m tickled pink that you did a photo-shoot of it!

    Obviously you are beyond well-suited to write and illustrate big picture books for children — young and old alike! Keep ’em coming — I love living vicariously through you gals!

    And I love your blog’s new look — Snazzy!


    • Yeah, we have “gone around the bend,” indeed–in way too many ways. Glad you enjoyed the pictures. Maybe I will try a children’s book one of these days. Thanks. It was about time to change my theme. Good to hear you like it!


    • Thanks, Lisa. I’m tickled you enjoyed the post–photo-shopped and all. Yes, Cotopaxi is still active–though it hasn’t erupted in several decades. The first one–Chimborazo is dormant. Great to hear from you!


  6. Since you like alliteration, you could have substituted “route that reaches” for “street that stretches.” I’m always on the lookout for that sort of thing.

    Sounds like quite the adventure! We have our own volcanoes out here, of course, though they are nowhere near as tall as yours. Plus, I can say I’ve never lost a shoe while hiking in the vicinity of one. 😉


    • Yes, I know you have volcanoes, but if you haven’t lost a shoe at one, you are not living my friend. Seriously, thanks for the recommendation about “route that reaches.” I’m gonna change it. Okay? Hope you and Tara are doing well, my friend!


  7. For some reason llamas scare me. They look so cute from afar, but not sure I would introduce myself. I loved this post! We climbed a volcano in Guatemala. I thought I was going to die that day. Not from lava–I was out of shape.


    • My friend Juan got close enough to a llama a couple of months ago that it spit on him. I hear that’s what they do. That would have freaked me out. I don’t know if they are ever more aggressive than that, but being sprayed with llama spit is something worth avoiding, in my book.

      Glad you didn’t die on that volcano in Guatemala. I need to get in better shape!


    • Thanks so much for your comment. Glad you enjoyed the post and the photos. You’re right–we DO have a happy life, for which I am forever grateful. I appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. Great to hear from you today!


  8. First of all, the new look is GREAT! Awesome, in fact. Second, this was hilarious! Your expression in the one pic where you “left the little llama alone” is PRICELESS! What was going on there? You look completely revolted! Sorry to hear that your croc is MIA. What is up with you and the falling? Thank goodness it was softer sand/dirt and not a hard, Victorian era staircase this time.


    • Good God, isn’t that the truth. Hadn’t even thought of my fall when you were visiting when I wrote the piece. I just a klutz, Sista, pure and simple.

      In the photo you allude to, I had actually just fallen AGAIN! The llamas were staked to a huge stick in the ground just in front of my feet. Of course, I forgot about it being there and tripped over it.

      Really, I should probably write this story as it REALLY happened, as that might be even funnier.

      Hope you’re doing okay, sweetie. We miss you!


    • Thank you, Robin. This post was fun, as I had never tried anything exactly like this. I did a bit of it in the post about our guinea pig, but nothing more. Glad you enjoyed it! It’s wonderful to hear from you!


  9. Kathy,

    I love it! This was my only uplifting moment today! I just knew that pink a was yours…..the same one I would ave chosen. However, listen to me little lady when I say…you shouldn’t wear crocs while climbing a volcano!!!! 🙂 I loved your pictures!


    • Oh, Tia, so glad you got a kick out of this post. And I’m SOOOOO glad you liked the hat(s). I should have probably told this story as it REALLY happened–i.e. without the talking critters–as it may have been even funnier. But I wanted to try something new for a change.

      And, yes–how stupid can I be? Wearing crocs to a volcano?! Idiot, loony lady! So, so happy you enjoyed it!


    • Thanks, Heather. Glad you enjoyed this one. Sara didn’t want me to deface the photos with text, but I had to try something new for a change. I may redo this as a straight post at some point. Great to hear from you. I am SOOOOOOO enjoying your car registration posts!


  10. Oh My Golly Gosh, I am going to have to say OMGG! Hilarous. You are a crazy pair and your telling in pictures had me in stitches. I speak Spanish but had never actually though of you know, como se llama in that way (to be fair, I learned Spanish in Barcelona donde no hay llamas!).
    I am going to be whispering Chimborazo in Mr Warm Ginger’s ear as soon as he gets home from work and for the rest of the weekend at least. It’s quite possibly the sexiest name place I’ve ever heard (Caracas comes a close second, but only because I watched Romancing the Stone at a very impressionable age!).
    Just love this post. Captured you madcap meandering madams (watch out, I’ll alliterate all over the place from now on!) and was a damn fine read to boot. 😀


    • Oh, K, you know, I just love it when you read my stuff. Your comments are second only to your own hilarious posts! Hadn’t thought about Chimborazo being a sexy word–but, damn, you are SOOOOOO right–and Caracas, too! You loony lady, YOU! Love your alliteration a whole lot, as well!!!!!! Great to hear from you!


  11. Oh, this was the perfect way to start my day, Kathy. Hilarious! And I absolutely love the new blog format, I’m always all for bigger font as I tend to “forget” to put my glasses on when I read anything now. (ahem, I think I’m in denial about getting older….)


    • You and me both, Darla I can’t see well even WITH my glasses on. Old age sucks! What’s going to happen to us in another decade or two?

      Seriously, glad you enjoyed the post–as you are the master of this kind of stuff! Take care, my friend. And remember your glasses today!!!!!


  12. Good morning, Kathy. What a story! It looks like you two had a thoroughly Ecuadorian blast. (And you had lots of fun writing up a good story/photo essay to share it!) Your lost croc reminds me of the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. Have you read it? Isn’t it wonderful that there are so many adventures to experience in Life, with so many flavors and foibles and fun?


    • Yes, Wild is one of my favorite books of the past couple years! And I had TOTALLY forgotten about her losing that hiking boot. What a great memoir. Thanks for the reminder. Glad you enjoyed the post. This was a fun trip and a fun post to put together. Hope you’re staying warm, my friend!


  13. Duuuuuuuuuuuude. These are some amazing photos and I love the story by picture narrative of your Volcano Vacation. That just sounds awesome. I haven’t had a volcano vacation in ten years, except I just called it a vacation, Volcano Vacations sounds more awesome. Sounds badass 🙂 Great pics I love the snow at the tip there 🙂


    • Your comment made me laugh! I got a kick out of being called DUDE. Makes me feel so hip–not to mention young. LOVE it. Glad you enjoyed the post. This one was SOOOOOOO fun to put together. Thanks for stopping by, Dude! Great to hear from you!


  14. I’m loony tunes over this story! Kathy, I can tell you had a hoot putting this together. Have you ever thought of using your love of picture taking and turning it into a silly picture book for kids? I think that would be fabulous. You have a knack! Oh and btw, did you lose the croc or were you able to retrieve it?


    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, Monica. It was a LOT of fun assembling this thing. I had NEVER thought of doing a children’s book until someone else suggested I do so in these comments. Thanks for thinking I have a knack. Maybe after I finish my memoir.

      NO, NEVER did retrieve the Croc. The wind was blowing SO hard, it was blown away.

      Great to hear from you, my friend. Have a wonderful weekend!


  15. You guys are the loonIEST! That’s why I like you so much. 🙂
    The photos are terrific, too. I had no idea party hats were all the rage in Ecuador!.

    The llamas are fascinating and wonderful. If the writing thing doesn’t work out, I’m going to start my own llama farm!


    • Yeah, we’re pretty loony, alright! And, what? You didn’t know that we’re gonna make you wear a party hat the ENTIRE time you’re in Ecuador? Prepare yourself. And it will be all the rage on your llama farm–from which you will ALSO write! Have a great weekend, Jackie!


  16. I am spitting coffee on my monitor as I read and story of the lovely loony ladies and their adventures. Perhaps not chasing hats? Nah, that isn’t the right strategy. Perhaps … well can I just say the shoes are terrible choice for running after hats in the mountains, you need perhaps something more stable.

    Loved this, loved the pictures and the story telling. Absolutely perfect.




    • Oh, you coffee spitter, you! You crack me up. Yeah, not the best shoes. As Sara would say, “What was your first clue?” What WAS I thinking? God only knows. Wonderful to hear from you, Val. And thanks for stopping by, even when you’re sick. I feel special! Hugs to you. Get well soon!


  17. Hola bonitas! your post is simply magnifique! 🙂 you rule and rock, ladies! LL=large like… 🙂 glad to have come across your awesome blog… my very best and friendly thoughts, cheers! 🙂 Mélanie – Toulouse, France, “old Europe”… hasta luego! 🙂


    • Oh, Melanie, I’m SO happy to meet you! Love getting to know new bloggers from different parts of the world. Hasta luego to you, too–and hasta pronto, tambien!!!! Thanks for reading my post and taking the time to leave a comment!


  18. Hats off to you, Kathy, for this clever post, to Sara, too, for the fabulous photos. It was almost like watching a movie. So, when ARE you going to make your movie?

    The volcanos remind me of the time I drove and hiked with friends around Mammoth Lakes, Calif., in the Eastern High Sierra. We climbed an inactive (so they say) volcano during a brewing storm. A Brit friend remarked, “Here we are, standing on the top of a volcano in a thunderstorm.”

    I don’t know what trips I’ll take this year — first, I need a car. In the event I get one, my first trip may be driving to the store rather than walking. Whoever thought I might need the exercise?

    Thank you for taking us on this picturesque, if not windy, journey.


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