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Published: August 25th 2011
Another drive day (7 hours) but the views were gorgeous. We were going up into the highlands so there were gorgeous hills and farmland everywhere. Lunch was in a small village where we set up a picnic table and made sandwiches that my cook group had bought the ingredients for. My favorite part of today was when four little boys who had been watching us joined in a game of futbol with us. It was actually more just kicking the ball back and forth but they were adorable and loved showing off for all of us gringos. A 20 minute drive past that town and we reached the Quilotoa Volcano (now a crater with a lake inside). Rumor is that the lake is somehow connected to the ocean since the water is salt water and so it has some sort of magical powers. Whether that is true or not, it is an impressive and gorgeous, blue lake. After we had all taken our pictures it was another hour and a half drive down a small dirt road to the village of Chugchilan. Our hotel is the Black Sheep Inn, a little bit past the village and it is very very nice. It is also entirely vegetarian which I thought might be a bit disappointing, but dinner that night proved otherwise and we had a Shepherds Pie that was probably one of the best meals I have had so far. Our options for tomorrow are a 4 hour hike down from the Quilotoa Volcano, a hike in the Cloud Forest, or a horseback ride in the cloud forest. There is a group of us who want to do both the Quilotoa hike and the Cloud Forest hike, but we are told that it will be too much for one day. Despite that we are still going to try to do both tomorrow and we will see how it goes. Supposedly the sunrise will be amazing tomorrow so my alarm is set for 5:30 am.
I woke up as promised at 5:30. The sunrise wasnt anything too special, but it was still very nice sitting out on the porch in the quiet morning, a nice relaxing start to what promised to be a strenuous day. And it was, but in a very good, fulfilling way. We started off at 8:30 but didnt reach the volcano to start ourhike until 10. The lake itself was gorgeous and we hiked around the rim of it for about an hour, taking way too many pictures, before starting on the downward trail. The first part of the trail was fairly easy in my opinion, all downhill, and we went through a cute little town before we reached the edge of the canyon. It is between the volcano and the village of Chugchilan so in order to get back you have to go down into the canyon and back up the other side. With the altitude it made for a difficult hike back up, but the feeling of accomplishment after that hike (7 miles) was great and the views were amazing. We made it back with enough time to see the could forest as well so some of us took a truck up to it, walked around for an hour with a guide, and then took the truck back. It was worth it. The could forest has a whole bunch of really old trees and it is literally a full forest on the top of a hill, very strange at that altitude. By the time we got back to the Inn we were all ready to just shower and relax. Those were slightly postponed because a group of young girls came to the Inn to do a traditional dance performance for us, which was adorable and neat to see. Finally a hot shower, one of the highlights of the day! We leave tomorrow at 5 am for a 12 hour drive to Cuenca which should be tons of fun... not!
On schedule with our 5 am start and what ended up being a 15 hour drive day. The most exciting part of the drive was when our truck started spewing a bunch of black smoke and we had to stop at a gas station and wait for our guide to replace a part. But then it was back on the truck for more junk food, sleeping, and boredom. We finally made it to Cuenca at around 8 pm and after checking into the Gran Hotel we went out to find some real food. After dinner we went around the corner to a square where there happened to be some sort of religious festival happening. There were fireworks and groups of traditional dancers from various regions around Ecuador which was interesting to see and made the long drive worth it.
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