Published: July 24th 2012July 22nd 2012
Sorry for the delay. We just got internet here in Chugchilan.
Day 5: Quilotoa:
The morning for our departure to the Quilotoa Loop started with a bit of a shock. When I checked on the time the bus to Quilotoa was to leave, the hostal folks told me that on Sunday the only bus leaves at 9am, not 11:30am! Since it was already after 7am, we rushed packing our backpacks, skipped breakfast, stowed our main luggage and headed for the bus terminal. We got our next surprise when we found out that supposedly there was NO bus to Quilitoa that day (although I'm pretty sure I saw when arrive after we'd been there a while) and we'd have to take the bus to Quivedo which would drop us at Zumbahua. The bus was getting ready to pull out, so we grabbed it. The fare was only $2 each and the scenery along the way was awesome. The road started out to be paved and just curvy, but half way there it turned into gravel. We'd been thinking we'd hike the leg from Zumbahua to Quilotoa, but we weren't sure how far it was, so when another tourist
couple was talking to a local guy and they said we could share the pickup ride to Quilotoa at only $5 for us both, we decided not to try the unknown. Good thing to, because it wasn't that close and would have involved a lot of climbing, in the cold wind.
After paying our $2 each to enter Quilotoa (a fee to help develop the area I think), the pickup driver dropped us at the foot of the crate lake rim. We asked about the place we were staying in, Quilotoa Crater Lake Lodge (it is on the internet), we got a lot of blank stares until one guy finally pointed up the hill from the crater. Besides being fairly cold, the wind was blowing, sometimes at near hurricane strength, so we weren't all that sure of our choice to stay here even one night. We'd already booked our room, a double with private bath at $40, so we hiked up to the lodge. It really is an awesome looking place inside and out, but was pretty much empty when we arrived. A guy apparently heard us come in, agreed we had a reservation (without looking it
up?) and showed us to room 4 on the second floor. I'm not sure what the rooms on the ground floor are like, but ours was quite nice, although a bit cold. I noticed a small space heater but had been expecting an electric blanket like I'd read about,. He told us no, but we can use the heater. Oh well. We turned it on to heat the room while we walked back to the village to hike the crater. Before we started, we had to have a coffee, entered Hostal/Restaurant PachaMama and noticed that they also had hot soup, so we ordered two of each. The coffee was welcome and the soup was quite good. After our warming coffee and soup, we started the hike down. Quilotoa Crater Lake is an awe-inspiring sight! The trail down is very steep, curving, and often slippery, but worth the effort to see the crater and the lake up close. Now, the climb back up might NOT be worth the view! You can opt to ride a mule back up at $8 each, but Manoli didn't like the idea of riding a mule (She'd opted out at the Grand Canyon and Santorini, Greece
too!) so after an extended rest and photos, we started the climb up. There is a small hostal, Princess Toa, at the bottom right off the lake, but I don't think I'd want to spend the night there. Tiny rooms, probably no heating and a room with a picnic table for eating. You can get water and sodas there for a reasonable 75 cents.
The hike back up was grueling to say the least. If you aren't in good shape or if you have trouble with altitudes, I'd pay the 8 dollars for the mule ride. Quilotoa sits at about 12,ooo feet or so, and at that altitude some folks really struggle. We weren't worried since we'd both hiked the Inca Trail two years ago and were hiking the whole time from 12,000 to 14,700 feet. Still, we had to stop for breaks quite often, more often as we went. Reaching the top felt like a real accomplishment, which the mule riders wouldn't feel. By this point, we'd finished our water and were hungry again since we'd only had soup, so we went to the hostal next to Pachamama (to spread the wealth around... actually, we were
hoping they'd have coffee but they didn't) and split one "almuerzo" (lunch) between us. Lunch amounted to another bowl of soup, followed by a plate of rice, roasted chicken, a fried plantain, and a small dab of veggies. The total cost, with a coke and a bag of chips was only $4.50. By this time, it was after 4pm, so we decided to return to our room to get warm and relax. Manoli asked about coffee and the guy said sure, he'd bring it to our room shortly.
The price of our room was a bit more than ususual, but little can be found or reservered online for Quilotoa, so I sort of splurged. Turns out it wasn't a bad deal. Besides being a very nice, cozy place, run by a local family, they also include a dinner in the price. I'm sitting here in the great looking living room, with a big spacer heater right behind me as I write this. I'll add a description of the dinner afterwards. Unfortunately, the only down sides of this lodge are that they do not have good heating nor yet have WiFi, so I'll have to post this tomorrow
from Mama Hilda's in Chugchilan, followed by the one for that day. We are currently thinking about not doing the hike from here to Chugchilan. Even though its only just over 10K, the terrain is apparently very rugged with a lot of ups and downs, it will probably be cold and windy again, and there is always the possibility of getting lost along the way. We will probably take the 2pm bus instead. We asked about another pickup ride to Chugchilan, but were told it would be $30!
Dinner was served at 7:30pm, and consisted of a bowl corn/cheese soup and a plate with delicous chicken breast, potatoes, and mixed vegatables. I was feeling rather tired and sleepy, so when the movie we were watching ended around 9pm, we went to bed.
There are more photos below