The Quilatoa Loop

Trip Start Aug 07, 2008
Trip End Dec 10, 2009

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Well, my first tentative step further than the Farm/Quito took me to the highlands and the ´Quilatoa loop´.

Sofia and I got down there through Latacunga, where we stayed the night, before proceeded to the pueblito of Quilatoa. It basically exists for the tourists - a tiny village full of hostels, an artisanea market with supposedly local goods (it´s the same shit you find everywhere...probably made in China) - and a guy in traditional attire who boards every bus to charge all the white people the $2 entrance fee. Lovely... But it is right by the crater lake, which is awesome - we hiked around it in a little under 5 hours, including lunch and plenty of time for Sofia´s `Japanese tourist` moments. Half-way around we encountered a couple who had hired a guide for this very same hike...but, i mean, why would you???? It´s a round lake...just walk around it!

The following day Sofia set off back to Latcunga - and I, at the 11th hour, didn´t - i headed off for Chugchilan with Angela, a slightly wacky middle-aged German lady. This hike is supposed the take 4-6 hours and is considered one of the best day bikes in Ecuador - following he rim of the lake for a while, then descending down, along a bit and down again into a canyon and up to Chugchilan. Losing the group/guide we were following (discretely, from a distance...) early on and a spot of rain later aside, we did it in 4.5 hours and it was a great hike. My cold (swine flu? ;-) was biting by this point and i collapsed into bed before dinner and straight back into it afterwards.

The following day, Angela and I headed to Isinlivi, another middle-of-nowhere hill-top pueblito. The directions we had were not quiet as good as the previous day ("take the next tiny path to the left, into grass with trees..." - specific, eh?) and the 5 hour journey took over 6.5 hours. We followed instinct more than the map, found more bridges than we should have and...well, lets just say we were very happy to finally get there. Upon arriving, it turned out there was only one hostel - and although very good, it meant they could get away with charging $20, perhaps $5-7 more than it should be elsewhere. Rumor has it that homestays are another option here. Maybe next time... The paths and log-bridge river crossings joining all these little villages are not just there for tourists. We encountered locals dragging sacks of flour from the nearest shop (3 hours!), animals being walked to market - the lot. Spanish is basically a second language to Quechua (sp?) here and traditional attire (often no shoes) is standard here. A completely different world to Quito.

The following day i had several options for getting back to Latachunga. There was the milk truck that could have taken me to a town where the bus stopped early, and another bus later on. As it turns out, we got a free lift in the hostal 4x4 which had made a delivery earlier. We went back though some high passes and the land is hand-farmed to he top, right up to 4000m, by the bare-footed locals - hardcore.

Back in Latacunga i searched for a group headed to the top of Cotopaxi (5900m), the worlds highest active volcano, but either they were too expensive or at the wrong times. Actually, there was an option the following day but by this point i had talked myself out of it and thus saved myself $200. The cheap high altitude stuff is ahead anyway - bring on Peru/Bolivia!
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