Biking Cotopaxi: How I celebrated the World’s Greatest College Weekend in EcuadorQuito, Spring 2012

Little 500. A week of skipping class, day partying and some pretty famous bike races. Almost every Indiana University student lives for it. It’s known as the “World’s Greatest College Weekend” and lives up to that every single year. We fittingly skip classes to hang out with friends and go to concerts the week before every spring semester dead week. For me, it’s also about forgetting the stress of the end of the semester and hanging out with friends all week long and having fun together.

So, of course, I wouldn’t stop talking about Little 5 to anyone in Ecuador. I was feeling a little homesick and wishing I were in Bloomington for the weekend. But chose the next-best option instead: I spent my Little 500 Saturday biking. Only this biking was down Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s second-tallest mountain at 19,347 feet.

We were a little nervous. We still had our near-death “hike turned into a climb” Pichincha experience on our minds. We were up for a challenge, not careening down cliffs.

We started about 200 feet lower than the snow line and went speeding down the side of a mountain on a bumpy, rocky dirt road. I used my breaks the entire time and was still out-of-control fast. I watched some people fall gracefully off of their bikes and found my friend Dylana by the side of the road with her kneecap popped out of place. We rode 8 kilometers downhill until we reached our first checkpoint.

We stopped, regrouped, and started biking on a flatter, bumpier road toward our lunch site. The road was so bumpy at some points I thought my hands were going to fly off of my handle bars. We weaved around, trying to find the least-bumpy spots while being able to enjoy the gorgeous mountain scenery a little more.

At some point, it began to hail. If you’re going to be caught in a hail storm, biking with a helmet on is probably the best time to be caught. We hid under shelter while eating a homemade lunch of tuna pasta salad and spanakopita. I almost died when I got my first taste of Greek food in nearly four months. Hail turned into a torrential downpour while eating, and we decided it was best to climb back into the van instead of biking on now muddy roads.

I finished the day exhausted, thankful for our great Ecuadorian tour guide who spoke English with an Australian accent and in desperate need of a hot cup of coffee. Sadly, that was the last major weekend excursion we got to go on. But we got amazing views, a fun experience and one last chance to conquer the Andes.

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