While planning our trip to South America, we had in mind to do quite some trekking, and one that caught our attention really quickly when searching the net, was the so called Quilotoa loop. There are few options to choose from, depending on how much time you’ve got. We were in for a 3 days/3 nights adventure. On average, we’d walk around 12 km per day.
Our route was the following:
We started from Quito, where we took a bus to Latacunga. Spent the night there in a hostel (14$) and used it as a place to leave some of our luggage. From there we took the bus to Sigchos. Latacunga is nice little place where you can enjoy walking around for a day or half.
The first part of the trek was a bit hard cause we carried a gallon of water, the camera, warm clothes, the tent, sleeping bags and mats, food for the first day and many snacks for the other two.
It didn’t take long to see that the landscapes that would accompany us during the route were going to be simply amazing. The nature around us, the silence, the blue sky, after many days away from all this it felt really good to breath that air.
When we arrived to Isinlivi, which is as tiny as a village can be, we realized there were 2 places where to buy something to eat, a little shop and the only hostel that exists in there and both are 20 meters away from each other. We had food with us, but felt like eating something warm, so we asked at the shop, where they had nothing warm so we said we’d try at the hostel. The woman told us not to bother that they wouldn’t have anything warm either, but we wanted to check that ourselves. Indeed the hostel didn’t sell anything that was above 20 degrees, and the cold stuff was too expensive for our budget. So we came back to the shop to realize that the woman didn’t want to sell us anything. She was rude and pretty mean, but anyway, we just thought we’d take our money elsewhere then.
Key point here if you are planning on doing this trek, go to the hostel and ask for a map. They have a very detailed map of the trek to Quilotoa, the guy gave it to us for free, and I can tell you now that even having a gps map on our smartphones, without the instructions that where on that map we got we wouldn’t have made it, at least not in 3 days.
Leaving Isinlivi behind us, but very close from it still, we found a very nice spot where to put the tent. There was a little river running nearby and the views to the mountains where stunning. So we unpacked, ate our cans and rested watching the beautiful picture that was before us.
The second day we woke up early and started our way to Chugchilan. We realized soon that the map we got at the hostel was incredibly helpful. So with our map in our hands we kept walking and enjoying the views. There were maybe another 10 people doing the hike at the same time, but we started walking later than them and had the path just for us.
In this part of the trek, at some point it starts going up up up, and yes, it’s quite demanding for 1 km, where is basically pretty steep all the time. But the views once you get to the top, well, it pays the price.
We ate lunch in the town of Chugchilan, in a tiny room without light that served both as house and a sort of restaurant. Tasty and a big portion for 2$ so it was a good deal. More considering that the other options to eat there are the hostels where you’d pay the same amount for a tiny crappy sandwich.
We kept walking and left the town behind us to find a nice spot where to spend the night. While going down we climbed a little hill and walked a bit down. We found a nice flat area with great views, and really close from it we found a little barn with pigs in it. From it there was a path that led to a house. As we didn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with a farmer shouting on us for putting our tent in his property, Xavi walked down the path to ask if it was OK for us to sleep there. The woman at the house said it was fine, so we set our camp in this great viewing spot.
We received few visits from the kids of the house, curious to see what kind of people where sleeping next to their pigs. They would see us, laugh and hide.
The next morning we woke up to start our last day of the journey. We had around 10 km ahead, of which most would be going up.
Again, amazing views and fresh air were our fellow companions.
We followed the instructions, but at some point, when arriving to a city that the map said to border it, we went in to buy water and an ice-cream for Kasia, and when checking the options we had to move out of there, none seem to match what the instructions said. We took our phones out, and a guy we met that was in the same situation did the same and we all agreed on which path we should follow.
Let’s just say we did quite some more than the 10 km we had scheduled for the day, but we did make it to the crater, and holy crap, that looked amazing.
Funny part is that we arrived to a side of the crater where we would still need to walk around half of it to get to the city where we wanted to spend the night. So we walked few more kilometers around this beautiful crater, enjoying the views and seeing how our energy started to run low.
We arrived with our legs pretty tired, so we crushed at the first bar we saw that was still serving food. It gets pretty called in here, as you are above 4,000 meters and the wind blows pretty strongly. After resting our legs for a while we went out to find a place to camp. Crossing a crop that was on the side of the main road we found a path that went down to the mountain, where we saw what we thought it’d be a flat area. Big mistake. Anyway, we were really tired and didn’t want to walk more to find a nice camping spot, so we chose the most flat part of the place and set the tent there. Again, big mistake.
Even though we didn’t feel it at that time, the wind at that high is really strong, and as it turns out, it got stronger during the night.
So it was a cold, windy as fuck, non flat surface where our asses where trying to rest from the past three days. Really a great choice.
Here are our faces of joy at that moment.
Best part came like around 10 pm, when we heard what sounded like a little explosion. Yes, something exploded indeed. The wind was so crazy strong that bent the tent so much that one of the aluminium bars couldn’t take it no more and a part of it exploded. The part was the one keeping the doors together, so now both doors started shaking and flying around the tent like crazy. To sum up this great night, we spent it holding the doors and wishing the rest of the tent wouldn’t blow up or that we simply wouldn’t fly away.
At 5 in the morning we started packing and walking to the parking area where there was the bus stop. We arrived a bit late and the first bus was leaving at 6:30 am and there wouldn’t be another one till midday. We saw the bus arriving and started running towards it. With our bags in our backs, our tired legs and our red eyes from not having slept a single freaking second that night, I couldn’t stop laughing at the situation. The bus driver saw us and laughed too and luckily they waited for us. We sat down in the bus pretty much dead but fully satisfied of what would be one of the highlights from our Ecuadorian adventure.
One of the perks of leaving Latacunga by bus in a clear day is that you get to see the magnificent Cotopaxi volcano, which is pretty impressive.
If you love trekking and happen to be in Ecuador, don’t miss it!