• Films Oiseau de nuit

Filming Adventure: Endless Day at Cotopaxi Volcano

Culminating at 5,897 meters above sea level, the Cotopaxi Volcano is an icon of Ecuador. With its eternally snow-capped summit, it is the dream shot in a travel film! I had obviously put it on my itinerary. It was on this day that we remembered that in the Andes, a day that promises to be absolutely perfect can quickly turn bizarre ...

Volcan Cotopaxi (5897m)
Volcan Cotopaxi (5897m)


We are informed that the tour bus will pick us up at 6:30 am. I was delighted, because I had read that it was recommended to arrive as soon as possible to be able to have THE perfect shot of the Cotopaxi without clouds. I said to myself, what a great opportunity to capture the sunrise over the Loma El Panecillo, which we can see perfectly from the hostel, so I get up around 5am. All captured and the morning routine finished, we wait for the bus at the entrance of the hostel ... for two hours. Yes, it rang a little bell for me, but I was trying to stay positive. What actually stressed me was not having my Cotopaxi shot! I was on the verge of losing patience (and you probably think that by waiting 2 hours, you would have been impatient long before I did, but hey, patience is one of my strongest qualities!) When the bus finally arrives. We hadn't had lunch yet, but the short stop on the highway to observe the grandeur of the volcano is well worth it. The wait for lunch too, it was quality and was served to us in a magnificent restaurant filled with beautiful bay windows overlooking the mountains and a flower garden.

Nearly 2 hours after our departure from Quito, we finally arrive at the foot of the Cotopaxi volcano, where we are all charmed by the stratovolcano with an almost perfect cone. But he's actually a sleeping monster that's been trying to wake up for a very long time. Scientists were able to calculate its first and most violent tremors around 5820 BC. JC. Around the years of the Spanish conquests, it erupted a few times, including once when the inhabitants barely had time to take refuge on the top of a hill to escape the lahars (mud flows which is a mixture of volcanic ash and snow or water). Another time around 1877, he killed thousands and darkened the sky in broad daylight with his ashes. Its explosions are heard 350 km around. Hopefully it won't break out today. But be aware that the last seismic activities and explosions of the volcano were recorded in 2015.

Volcan Cotopaxi vu du bord de l'autoroute près de Quito
Cotopaxi volcano seen from the edge of the highway near Quito


So silently we all crossed our fingers a bit. The effect of the altitude was starting to be felt a bit, but the guides are very attentive and take us to a small tienda (small store / convenience store) where we can buy coca leaf, Ecuadorian chocolate, water, etc. . We are therefore ready to climb the Cotopaxi, which begins with the bus ride up the path ... everything seemed fine despite the curves being quite intense, but hey! We were starting to get used to it, they all drive the same way! We must not say that we did not expect it (here too we all crossed our fingers a little to prevent that from happening, we have to believe!) The bus capsized and got stuck in the soft sand! Impossible to get out, and we are at least 1h, 1h30 walk (very steep slope) only to get to the parking lot and then start the ascent to the base camp ... everyone is out of the 'bus and we try to help the organizers to push it out of there ... [What we do not know yet is that this is only the beginning of our adventures of the buses stuck in the mud in South America! For the shooting of AURORA, it happened to us at least 4 or 5 times.] But we laughed all the same, it could be worse! The temperature is with us, the weather is superb (for the moment) ... So the guides give us two choices that are not really choices. Either we wait for the trailer that will unblock the bus to take us to the parking lot, or we start getting on right away. Well, we're not gonna spend the day here! So we start to climb, but it's still difficult, because we obviously have shortness of breath due to the lack of oxygen and the path we take is clearly not usually used. So every step we take, we take two steps back ... but hey, again, it could be worse ...

L'autobus prise dans le sable... mais quelle vue!
The bus stuck in the sand ... but what a view!
Notre début prématuré de l'ascencion du Cotopaxi
Our premature start of the Cotopaxi ascent

So far the tour was really worth it. I admit that I had my Cotopaxi shot, I was satisfied! It's good to stay alert in all situations because you never know what will happen while filming a trip, and therefore, you never know what will make the cut! I was starting to think that would make a very good anecdote for the edit. Obviously, as in any trek, there are people who go faster, and others who don't. Usually I am one of those who do not go very fast at altitude (again ... we had not yet been to Peru. You will notice that the more the filming of AURORA advances, the more we go up in altitude, that is. is pretty intense.), and I had a pretty incredible headache that was blocking me from going up quickly. My traveling companions, on the other hand, were doing quite well and we parted temporarily. I preferred to take my time and the truth is, for the film, I didn't really have a choice. For me, the guided tours are always a bit annoying because I'm always in a hurry to take my plans and it is sometimes frustrating ... I still do well every time. But now I think film or not, I could not have edited as quickly as the rest. The important thing at altitude is to listen to yourself and not to push, it can be dangerous for the brain and the lungs. The guides are also very serious about this and will never push you to go faster than you can. No problem! Everyone enjoys the visit as they wish.

Le paysage incroyable lors de l'ascencion. Un peu plus bas à droite, l'autobus encore pris dans le sable!
The incredible landscape during the ascent. A little further to the right, the bus still stuck in the sand!
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My travel partners went to an altitude of 5,015 m, very close to the snow-capped peak. For my part, I had to come back down because my head really hurt too much despite having chewed coca leaf and chocolate. Little by little my energy was starting to leave me. To my surprise, when I arrive at the parking lot before most of the climbers, I realize that the bus is still stuck in the sand! It is also starting to get colder and colder. Clouds were approaching dangerously and the wind pierced my coat. We're Canadian, but that doesn't mean we like the cold ... I'm sitting on a rock and I look at a little of everything to forget the cold, I try to take advantage of it. The scenery is breathtaking. The guides start to get the bikes off the bus, and that's when I say to myself 'it's true, you have to get off that by bike'! Almost an hour later, the base camp group joined us and the trailer had just arrived to unload the bus. What a story!

The cold was starting to take over my mood, but until then, things were going relatively well, I was happy with my plans. It was the cycling adventure that ended me stiff! We were given bicycle helmets (which looked like they were for 7 year olds) to protect us, but I'm not sure if that would have actually made a difference. The sky changed dramatically. From blue to black. In addition to the descent which seemed interminable, the shocks on my wrists, it started to rain, then to hail (it was suddenly 5 degrees!), Then the sky began to throw lightning (yes, we were in the middle of nowhere, with lightning and thunder, not super reassuring ...) we were soaked to the bone. We took it all with the Gopro, and I swear to you that on the video, it looks like a really easy little descent ... I don't know how to explain that, but it was as if the The entire earthly attraction was pulling us down, it was very demanding mentally (headache due to the altitude) and physically. I fell in the face, I was crying with fear, exasperation, frustration with the Universe ... Could I have stopped and taken the bus like most of the world did? But no, I have too much pride for that (and that is my worst fault)! I did his downhill mountain bike to the end and today, looking back, I'm proud of it. The other side of the coin is that Michael loved it and even decided to go mountain biking on the Death Road in Bolivia ... do you think I gave in to the experience? This is an other story! My respects to those who ride mountain biking, I think it was on that day that I understood how challenging it can become and why fans are so much! When I finally sat on the bus, I think I actually fell a bit hypothermic. A good soup during the late lunch invigorated me a bit, but let's say I couldn't wait to go take a shower and go to bed!

To see this day on video, I finally put it in the film AURORA! When you donate to support our NPO, you can watch all of the movies in the series for free. In addition, your name will appear in the credits of the next film.

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To be continued ... After the Cotopaxi volcano, the Chimborazo volcano? ↬Share to someone who loves to travel ... 🌎💚 Mimi Tremblay Filmmaker Entrepreneure On Instagram | Facebook | Youtube @Filmsoiseaudenuit Films Oiseau de nuit is an audiovisual NPO based in Bromont, Quebec, Canada, since 2015. ↠Our Challenge: 10 travel films around the world. ↠ Our Mission: To create a community of fulfilled and passionate people who advocate the discovery of oneself and others for a more open and peaceful world.

Mimi et Michaël au Volcan Cotopaxi
Mimi et Michaël au Volcan Cotopaxi