• Day8

    Quilotoa Loop Day 3 || Quilotoa, Ecuador

    April 17, 2018 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    The third and final day of the Quilotoa Loop had us scaling cliffsides, walking through villages and battling the altitude to reach our destination of the stunning crater lake.

    After the boys took us on a rather roundabout route the previous day, they decided it was the girls turn and put Bronte and I in charge of navigation for day three. Vague paper instructions and at hand, we set off in the sunshine from the village of Chugchilán. Early doubts in navigation were quickly rectified as we descended down into another valley. The lush green countryside in this area of the Andes is insane.

    We had a couple of options of paths to take that would ultimately join up. We chose the more direct but dangerous one, which lead us to a steep canyon where there had evidently been some landslides previously. There was definitely some immediate regret of choosing this path upon reaching this section as it was such a steep descent, none of us really knew how to approach it. Thankfully on a second look, we realised it was mostly sandy as opposed to just slippery rock so we could just slide our way down to the rickety bridge to cross the river and begin our ascent up the other side.

    We continued past many more landslides, up the side of another valley and through some mini canyons. Ecuador sits on the Ring of Fire so earthquakes are common and I suppose this contributes to the amount of landslides in the area. By this point it was reaching late morning and we were battling the heat and the altitude again as we were about 3000m up. Thankfully we came to a small village with many derelict buildings but at least a little shop to find some cold drinks to quench the thirst!

    From here it was the final slog to ascend to Laguna de Quilotoa - the crater lake. We scaled up the side of the crater in a more steep route to skip some of the zigzagging from the proper path. Reaching the crater rim at 3800m was both a relief to be able to stop climbing against the altitude and also because the views were incredible.

    The emerald green lake is enclosed by the stunning crater and when the sun was able to shine through the colours were insane. One thing I love about Ecuador too is that even somewhere as incredible as this, there’s hardly anyone around. It definitely hasn’t been hit with the tourist boom too much yet. We found a cute little dog up here and took the obligatory photos before continuing to walk around the crater. It was crazy to have such a contrast of amazing views; highlands on one side and the crater lake on the other. At one point there was even a section of proper white beach sand, even at 3800m?! Bizarre.

    We were all starting to get really hungry but finally reached the town of Quilotoa around 2:30pm. Good timing as the weather suddenly packed it in not long after we arrived, the clouds rolled through, we could barely see 100m and it got really cold. Turns out this was an awkward time for lunch though as many places seem to close between lunch and dinner but we eventually found somewhere open and selling pizza.

    We were all freezing so had to resort to lying in bed to keep warm until dinner. We did have a log fire in our room but the staff wouldn’t agree to lighting it until later in the day. Rough! Not ready to retreat to bed post dinner, we ventured out to a little cafe/bar down the road. Quilotoa is another small blink-and-you-miss-it kind of place so as you can imagine, no one was really around. Of course we were the only ones in the bar but they had a cute wee kitten called Toa who kept us entertained while we had some cocktails!

    The nice thing about being out in more rural areas is seeing a more authentic side of local life. Local women wear more traditional dress; usually skirts and tights with small heels, colourful ponchos and woolen hats similar to a fedora/trilby. Not to mention they scale the cliffsides just as fast, if not faster than us in those heels! The men dress similar, ponchos over long trousers. No matter how warm it is though, they always seem so wrapped up as if it’s the middle of winter. Who knows if they ever find it warm?!

    I must be finally adjusting to the altitude and getting over the jetlag as I managed to sleep pretty well at 3800m. Typical now that we’re finally heading lower! After an amazing few days in the countryside, it’s time to head further south too. Next stop, Baños.
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