South America: Fluent in Spanish in one week

In one week, I'll be finally free and on the way to South America. In last two days, I received several things which I'd ordered for the trip, and the list of things I need to take with me is getting filled with checks – Swiss Army Knife, First Aid Kit, Water Purification Tabs, Mini Flashlight, Spanish Phrase Book For Travelers,…

I started dusting off my Spanish with the phrase book. It won't be that easy. It's been a while since I learned Spanish. Now, I'm trying to learn at least basic sentences and most common words. I brought a Spanish textbook, I used in Spanish classes at our school, to the States. Frankly I have not opened it many times this summer. The textbook BTW is horrible, written like 30 years ago. So being fluent in Spanish by the end of the next week is still just a dream 🙂
I'm still waiting for a repellent spray for my hiking boots and a money belt which is worn under clothes. I don't know what to expect, but according to my tourist guide book thefts are one of the most biggest concerns. I don't know what would be worse, if losing a thousand of dollars or a passport. If I lost a passport I would have to buy a ticket directly to Europe because there is no way to get to the USA without a proper passport. I know what I'm talking about because I lost a passport in Canada two years ago. The only way to get to the States was swimming down Niagara River through Niagara Falls. The money belt should significantly help me protect my passport and money. Anyway, I will keep money on three different places. One never knows.

What I cannot get ready for is altitude sickness. I'm flying to the second highest capital in the world and flying back from the highest capital. Quito is 2800 m (9200 ft) above the sea level and La Paz even 4000 m (13100 ft). Right now, I'm about 500 m above the sea level, so it will be a huge change. You never know what altitude will do with you. You can be in the best shape and get altitude sickness. I'm going to go to Cotopaxi NP after Quito. Cotopaxi is still an active volcano (relatively active because the last eruption was 130 years ago). It's the second highest mountain in Ecuador. I'd love to climb it up. Unfortunately, It's not such a piece of cake. It's recommended to acclimatize over 3000 m for 2 weeks before climbing Cotopaxi whose summit is over 5800 m above the sea level. Moreover, September is not the best time for climbing Cotopaxi because it's still relatively cold and there are pretty severe winds on the summit. It's a pity because it's not so expensive. The whole trip is about $150 with an experienced guide and necessary equipment. But I think I'll be satisfied with trail that are about 4500 m above the sea level. Anyway, I'm pretty sure South America will take my breath… literally.

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