Arriving at the emerald green Quilotoa lagoon, a smile crawls across my face. Being unemployed really isn’t that bad.
Getting to Quilotoa is really half the fun.
Most of the bus schedules require you to wake up early and start from Latacunga. We run to make the 8am bus to Zumbahua, paying the $2 along with the rest of the poncho-clad and fedora-with-a-peacock-feather wearing locals.
As I struggled to stay awake, an agrarian lifestyle I can’t even fathom passes me by. The foothills of the central Andes are drop dead gorgeous and it seems like I’ve been transported back in time. Terraced farm land rises up the mountains in varying shades of green, black and yellow. Surrounding them are tiny, one room, concrete houses with thatched roofs. Local women herd lots of woolie sheep, pigs and of course, llamas.
From Zumbahua, its a bumpy, $2 ride in the back of a pick-up truck to the Quilotoa crater. We hold on the rails as the scenery speeds by.
At 3,900 meters we’ve reached the top of the crater / lagoon /caldera. The view is amazing and it is difficult to fit the whole scene in my camera’s view finder. We decide to hike down to the shores and enjoy some free time relaxing.
Hiking back up is less relaxing, but not at all impossible. If you are out of shape, the locals will happily rent you a mule to help you make it back to town.
It is coooold in Quilotoa at night.
I’m thankful for multiple blankets and a wood stove (and the señora for showing me how to light the stove).
From here we hike to the next town of Chugchilan. It’s a 10km hike that isn’t difficult as it is long and not completely well marked. You definitely need a map.
But it’s completely worth it. Highlights include fields of wild flowers and lupine as well as wandering through the town of Guayama where the school kids shyly pose for a picture, trying to contain their patience as they wait to see the results. (Alright, I know they don’t look happy but it’s because they don’t smile for photos.)
You then get to a lookout point where you can see Chugchilan. The view is stunning as it lays out where you have to go down and then back up. Again, the hike isn’t difficult as much as the altitude will have you wheezing and gasping for air. We make frequent stops to enjoy the scenery as the rain gently flows throughout the valley.
The paths up to Chugchilan are the same volcanic mud footpaths that the locals have used for hundreds of years to wander through the hills and shew their mules into town. I feel like we’re trespassing through people’s corn fields but finally we make it to Chugchilan and I am overjoyed.
Especially because I’m staying at one of the best eco-lodges in Ecuador, the Black Sheep Inn.