Anne

Ecuador was amazing but don’t hike during electrical storm - Nov 14 - Nov 20, 2019

Traveler: Anne O. - Local specialist: Edwin Vega

Pedro was great and shared lots of interesting facts. He was very accommodating with some of the changes we made at the beginning of the journey. He picked us up at the airport and then the next morning arrived to take us to Otovalo and the leather town and a good place to eat On the way back we stopped to buy roses on the side of the road. What a treat. On Monday, Santiago was on time to pick us up. His car was also very clean and he was interesting to talk to. We drove to the Cotopaxi park to walk 5 km around a lagoon. It was a nice hike. We noticed that the volcano top was storming and it has turned to snow within the hour around the lake. It started to sleet just as we got to the car. We headed up the volcano road which was very slippery for his car. I suggested if he was not comfortable we could skip the hike. He drove us up to the parking lot of Cotopaxi to walk the 400m to the refuge. The weather was extremely bad with snow and sleet. I trusted his judgement since he is a local guide. However, he should never have let us hike up Cotopaxi in an electrical snow storm. I didn’t realize the danger and he did not seem concerned. We got up halfway to the refuge in the storm and my husband and I immediately started to pick up an electrical charge which I did not understand at the moment what was happening. I knew it was bad and as I was being shocked and in pain he ignored these dangerous signs of an imminent sign of being struck by lightning. I immediately turned to run down the mountain screaming help me. Then I got a shock or was actually struck by lightning. My husband then got to me and rushed me down the mountain as fast as we could. I don’t know how I survived. Everything I’ve read about this situation that I now understand this to be is that it is rare to survive this type of electrical phenomenon and most people do not survive to tell their story. I know I would not survived if I’d had a heart problem because there was no phone signal or medical training by our guide. After my horrifying experience we drove to the hacienda and enjoyed the rest of our journey as much as we could. El Porvenir was awesome. The last day was supposed to be hiking on Quilotoa. In addition to not feeling well and the fear of hiking in the rain again, we asked to change our journey and went to the cloud forest to see hummingbirds and at lunch at Papallacta. We stopped at an amazing Rose plantation I found a brochure for in Papallacta. We appreciate all the last minute changes but my experience prompts me to ask a lot of questions about the knowledge of safety that these free lance guides are expected to have. We never knew the risks of hiking at high altitudes while it is snowing and with poor weather but our guide should have. When I did some research on the internet and mentioned to my guide that we shouldn’t have gone and that I was lucky to be alive he blew it off and said I should’ve unzipped my jacket? What? I expected an apology and for him to do additional research into this subject of hiking in an electrical storm. For the 2 days we stayed after, I remained in a short of shocked state unsure of my emotions and physical well being although I felt mostly well. We were so far from anywhere and I didn’t want to go to an Ecuadorian medical facility. I pushed the incident to the back of mind so as to enjoy my life since it was spared and the rest of our trip. I visited my doctor a few hours after my arrival home and have been given a bill of health which I am grateful for. My doctor had only seen a few patients who have been electrocuted/shocked/struck by lightning and told me how lucky I was to not have had any damage or death. most don’t live to tell the tale.

Edwin Vega profile photo
Edwin Vega, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Anne!

Thanks so much for your feedback!

First of all, I´m glad that the overall trip experience was positive. With regards to the hike at the Cotopaxi National Park, I´m very sorry that you experienced this beautiful place in such a negative way. I´d like you to know that all the guides that work with us are professionals and certified and under no circumstances would they put the lives of our tourists in danger. We already sat down with Santiago and agreed that he should have taken the... read more

Hi Anne!

Thanks so much for your feedback!

First of all, I´m glad that the overall trip experience was positive. With regards to the hike at the Cotopaxi National Park, I´m very sorry that you experienced this beautiful place in such a negative way. I´d like you to know that all the guides that work with us are professionals and certified and under no circumstances would they put the lives of our tourists in danger. We already sat down with Santiago and agreed that he should have taken the situation more seriously and will definitely do so in the future. On a company level, we are establishing some new standards in operations in order to increase the security and feeling of comfort of all our travelers. We will be receiving reports from the national climate and weather agency, so that we can always give proper information on expected weather conditions at each destination, especially in the mountains.

Please know, that we take your comment very seriously and will do everything to be able to avoid such situations. I hope that all in all you returned home with good memories! If I can help you with anything else in the future, please let me know!

Take care,
Edwin