Ecuador: Quilotoa Loop
First of all, let me start by addressing a very serious crisis I’m having: I FORGOT my Clay Aiken Christmas Song CD. Goodness! How did I manage to consider every other possible detail and forget my favourite Christmas tunes? Justin, I blame you – you should have thought to load some on my zen for me!! Anyway, I’m now having to listen to the annoying shopping mall type Christmas carols and will just have to make due with that. Not that it feels very Christmassy around here anyway…except every kid under the age of 5 runs around with a santa hat on, so I guess that’s something.
While I’m on the subject, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holiday, etc. I hope everyone is able to escape from the usual rigmarole of life and spend some time with family and friends!! I will be flying on Friday to Bogota, so I will be with family myself in a few short days!
So, update: I spent the weekend making my way around what’s called the Quilotoa Circuit, with the highlight being the Quilotoa crater and lake. The entire loop is only 200km long, but because of crappy roads and late buses, it takes a minimum of 2 days. A series of buses are required to go all the way around, and with it, the opportunity to hop off in various small towns with little to do other than sit around and watch the kids play and enjoy the scenery. I found this part of Ecuador to be the most beautiful thus far as it’s very mountainous and full of deep canyons. Potatoes seem to be the crop of the area as every bus I was on was constantly stopping to pick up or drop off people, all of whom were lugging around enormous sacks of potatoes. Where they were going with all those potatoes, I don’t know – I suppose to a market someplace, but seriously…there were TONS of potatoes. No wonder I’ve eaten some form of potato for every single meal since I’ve been here.
On Friday, I went from the start of the loop (Latacunga) and made it as far as the Quilotoa crater, which you can see in my pictures. The rim of the crater is at 3850 meters so from there you can not only see down into the crater and lake, but also an amazing panoramic view of all of the volcanoes and mountains in the distance. There were a few hostels up on the rim, and one down inside and I decided to hike down and stay at the one on the bottom, since they promised it would be quite a bit warmer down there, and I was already getting cold at 4 o’clock. The hike down was a breeze, mainly because it was so steep it was more like a big slide all the way down. Thankfully, I’d left my big pack up at the top otherwise there may have been issues. The hostels here are all community run, so each family has to take a 5 day turn at one of the hostels. I had a very nice couple and their 10 year old son running the show when I got to the bottom. They made a simple but tasty dinner and lit a campfire, but because there was no electricity and it gets cold and dark quite early, it was off to bed before long.
Because of my little detour, I missed the morning bus to the next village, so my options were to walk 5-6 hours with all my stuff (no thanks), wait 6 hours for the next bus, or sit on the side of the road and hope for a ride. I opted for the latter and about an hour later, someone picked me up and carted me off to Chugchilán. I loved this area as well. I chose one of the 3 hostels and went out for a walk. Every short walk led to fields and pastures full of alpacas, llamas and sheep grazing and small huts where very poor, but very happy and friendly families lived. When I got back to the hostal, I met a tour guide who was there with a British couple, who was also an aspiring photographer, and he was about to drive up into the cloud forest to take some pictures of the setting sun, so I tagged along and made it back just in time for an amazing dinner at the hostal!
On Sunday, I just bussed it the rest of the way around the loop with no more stops. If the bus rides around here weren’t so rough on the tailbone, I could ride around forever just watching the countryside go by!
My only complaint, which applies to all of Ecuador, is the littering. A few months ago, a friend and I were at the Wendy’s drive thru in Denver and the people in the car in front of us just tossed out a bag full of garbage onto the street. It was so infuriating that we pulled up next to them and Luke yelled at them for being so irresponsible about their own trash….if I remember correctly, all we got back was a blank stare. But here, that happens about every 5 seconds. On every bus and on the street, people just throw out their empty soda cans, water bottles, dirty diapers, etc. It’s terrible. A few weeks ago, I was near a group of kids on a school field trip, and not only did the kids throw their trash from lunch into the lake, but so did the teacher. In Peru it was the same thing, but at least there is a massive cleanup effort underway. Lots of littering, but the city hires plenty of people to walk around all day and pick it all up, so it stays relatively clean. Here in Ecuador, there is nothing but litter lining the roads…if only they knew how amazing their country is and learn to appreciate it more!
Anyway, I know it’s way too early in this trip to start naming favorites, but the Quilotoa loop gets the cake for now. I now wish I would have ditched the beach all together and spent more time here as there were plenty of full day hikes that I would have done. But they say hindsight is always 20/20, right?