The triumph of Quilotoa....And Jan's new love......


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South America » Ecuador » Centre » Quilotoa
February 17th 2020
Published: February 18th 2020
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The final push.Today was the day when we were either going to conquer the Quilotoa Loop or it was going to conquer us. Even chances, slightly weighted towards victory to the mountain if you were a betting man.

We were on our way by 0800hrs with 980m to climb before we reached the marvellous spectacle that is the Quilotoa crater….an ancient volcano that lost its top in an explosion of massive proportions, leaving a crater that is 250m deep and filled with greeny blue water. We had seen photos and it did look amazing.

But first there was the small matter of getting up there.

The first hour and a half was spent on a descent into a river valley through beautiful farmlands where every inch was cultivated no matter how steep the slope. We promise never to complain about the slope on our allotment again. It was baking hot again and as we crossed the river we scooped water into our hats and enjoyed the dripping coolness of the water that had come from the mountain tops.

And then, as it always does, the climbing began.

Of course we knew from our new Dutch friends that you just need to take tiny steps and you will get there in time. No problem. And in our (Jan’s) usual way, the answer to any problem lies in a logical mathematical formula. There is no need for panic or despair unless the maths tells you so. So…...if our steps were 10cm long on a hypotenuse of a triangle with an angle of (say) 45%, the vertical distance of each step would be about 6cm. If each step took 2 seconds, but we had to rest every 20 steps, and the total vertical distance was 980m, we would reach the top ……..at Christmas? NOW is the time to abandon maths and just get on with it.

As we started our ascent from the valley we met our very first tractor, driven by a man who must moonlight as spiderman. The slope was so steep that he could only plough straight down the hill as trying to contour would have meant certain death and going up would have meant turning around at some point leading to (again) certain death. We we transfixed by his predicament and his relaxed manner…...he ploughed all the way down to a tiny shoulder of land where the slope reduced slightly, turned and contoured all the way round the hill, to reappear at the top ready to plough down again, hence avoiding certain death. Clever eh? I wonder how many people lose their lives in the National Ecuadorian Ploughing Championships each year.

And on and on and up and up we went. After about 5 hours we hit a dirt track. The route guide said “Follow this track to the rim of the crater” - surely no-one would say that unless we were nearly there would they?... And then we noticed the end of the sentence which said…. “ for approximately 3.5km”. Would that be horizontally, vertically or along the track? Who knows it was a blooming long way but then, just as we were despairing of ever getting there, there it was! AMAZING!

We then spent another hour and a half working our way around the crater edge (not for the faint hearted) before we reached Quilotoa village. As we tottered into the village we suddenly realised how absolutely and utterly minging we were. Four days in the same clothes, walking all day in the sun definitely has an effect on your pleasantness. And ours had gone completely. We met a few people who had just got off a tour bus to look at the crater and as they reared away from us and told their children to keep away, we realised that we really really needed to get into our hostel and sort ourselves out! Thankfully our room has a shower! It also has a wood stove in it which will keep us mega-toasty tonight, although we notice that there is a gap between the bottom of the legs of the stove and the floor of our room, and the stove is supported by the chimney. This probably means that our room is on its way down into the crater but as long as it doesn’t happen tonight all will be well.

In case anyone is worried, our rations for these sort of difficult days are well planned and ordered. Today was 1. Massive breakfast at 0700hrs. 2. Jam sandwich at 1030hrs. 3. Half a snicker and an Apple at 1300hrs. 4. Half a snicker at 1500hrs. 5. Jam sandwich at 1630hrs IN OUR HOSTEL and a massive supper planned for 1900hrs. PERFECTO!

And Jan's new love? Well, depending on how well you know me, you may or may not know that I have the most difficult little toes in the world. They have been the bane of my life for 62 years. They are triangular in cross section (no really, they are, I will show you when we get home if you don't believe me) and given half a chance tuck themselves underneath my second-to-last toes, where they become downtrodden and blistered and make life thoroughly miserable. I have tried all sorts of strapping, plasters, special socks, painkillers and alcohol in my various attempts to get on top of them. BUT I have discovered a very simple and wonderful remedy that has changed my life and is now my new love….Vaseline! It seems that if I plaster my feet in vaseline, everything glides over everything else and my feet remain happy all day. ESTUPENDO! I have to admit it feels a bit odd at first as everything seems to be sliding about but I don't have a single blister after 2 weeks on the road and that is absolutely unheard of! So to anyone else out there with triangular toes I recommend trying it…..The only downside seems to be that Vaseline is very flammable so you do need to remember not to get your tootsies too close to the campfire, but that seems a small price to pay don't you?

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19th February 2020

Love reading the blog
5 hours uphill and then more walking, heroic! Good to see snickers are going strong xxx
19th February 2020

My toes are the SAME SHAPE!
Is it genetic? Do your children suffer from Digit Triangularis? And isn't vaseline a tad gooey? Mind you, I guess, as MY walk to work is on the extreme flat and done in wellies at the moment, the need to stop them tucking in where they don't need to tuck is slighly less than Jan's is. Are you on commission from Snickers? Or actually - on second thoughts you can't be - HALF a Snicker at a time?? Pete's influence again? (Never spend more money than you need when half a snicker will DO) FAB blog and even fabber pictures! That crater looks amazing! (Underneath your Blog post is a picture of Daniel Craig as James Bond...did you do that on purpose? Are you trying to tell us that neither of you is really as minging as you say, but actually looked as cool as James Bond as you tottered into Quilotoa?) Lots of love! Px
19th February 2020

Perseverance, maths and another use for vaseline
Well done to you both. Maths is awesome and it is always right. Sometimes Christmas arrives early. As for vaseline; I have had a right ( not left) ear problem for over 50 years. I went to see a nurse at the hospital and I now have to rub a small amount of cotton wool in vaseline and put it in both ears, every time i am going to wash my hair/have a shower.
23rd February 2020

Love that caldera
Hilarious re triangle toes! The caldera was formed about 600 years ago by as you say the volcano blowing it's top off - apparently pyroclastic flows (think Pompeii) reached the Pacific Ocean and spread an airborne deposit of volcanic ash throughout the northern Andes. If you feel a rumble and see lava put your socks back on in case your toes ignite!

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