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Published: December 16th 2015
The Quilotoa Loop is a circuit through the Andes in Ecuador, starting and ending in a town called Latacunga. We wanted to walk as much of it as possible, but this still involved a couple of busses – luckily these ended up being part of the adventure!
The first stretch of the journey was from Quito to Latacunga. This meant an hour’s local bus journey - standing up with our bags - to Quito’s South bus terminal, on which a woman changed her 2 year old daughter’s nappy whilst standing up, impressive! Then it was 2 hours on to Latacunga, through stunning countryside. Latacunga itself is not an attractive place, and we came to hate the main bridge in town, on which the locals seemed to enjoy chatting whilst taking up the whole pavement and refusing to move… Sometimes it’s tough being in South America with a very heavy backpack when you’ve been brought up with good British manners! The town did redeem itself in the evening when we stumbled across a square with some mental Christmas decorations, including a rhino, a fire extinguisher and R2D2 – obviously.
The next day we left our big bags at the hostel
in Latacunga and packed as little as possible for the next 4 days into our day backpacks, and headed on the bus to Quilotoa. Getting the bus in Ecuador is a crazy experience. You arrive at the bus station which is like a market, with men shouting out the destination of their bus over and over! Throughout the journey people get on at various intervals shouting about what they can sell you, before coming down the bus and trying to force you to take it! While this is going on, you’re trying to watch the terribly dubbed Jackie Chan film that they invariably put on.
Anyway, so we arrived in Quilotoa, found a nice hostel and set off to see the famous Lake Quilotoa, a crater where there was once a volcano. We admired the view from above and then set off down into the crater. The path was very steep and there was a lot of sand, meaning a lot of slipping and sliding! We made it to the bottom where we enjoyed the ‘beach’ for a while, avoiding the stray dogs who came running over every time we rustled a crisp packet. Then, after deciding we definitely
couldn’t accept the offer of a mule ride back, we had to get up again! Once we made it we celebrated with lunch in a 12 year old girl’s restaurant. The food was great and she had cooked it all herself (unless she just said that in the hope of a bigger tip…)! Crazy.
The next day, we set off early for Chugchilán, the next stop on the loop. First of all we had to skirt the lake, climbing all the way, which led to some pretty spectacular views. Then we headed down into a village and past a school, where the kids all shouted greetings at us, very excited to see some gringos! Then it was down into a canyon… and back up the other side, finishing with a very long hill. Views into the canyon were amazing, and Chugchilán was a very friendly little village, where everyone greeted us as we walked towards our hostel! Our hopes were raised as we were told that they had hot water but then cruelly dashed as the shower turned out to be freezing… again.
The third day on the loop saw us walking to a village called Isinlivi, and
we walked through some beautiful countryside to get there. The route took us past numerous farms and along a river, where we tried our luck on the world’s dodgiest suspension bridge! We passed another school where some little boys, late back from break time, struck up a conversation finishing with “do you have any chocolate?”. Obviously I couldn’t reward lateness so they were sent packing! Our hostel that night, the Llullu Llama, was quite famous along the circuit, and we enjoyed the impressive views whilst being slobbered on by the enormous dog that lived there, We named him Clifford.
The final leg of the loop to Sigchos was relatively easy and the weather was incredible, making the views over the lush green valleys even more stunning! We came across quite a few locals on this day, all of whom were lovely and smiley, in spite of the enormous loads that they were carrying. On arrival in Sigchos, we found a bakery and ate lots of well-deserved meringues. Yum! We were just building ourselves up for a 2 hour wait for the bus when, in typical Ecuadorian style, one drove past with the guy hanging off the side shouting ‘Latacunga’…
so on we got. The bus went right past the Cotopaxi volcano which was amazing!
Walking the Quilotoa Loop was brilliant way to spend four days in Ecuador. Not only did we get to see some incredibly remote villages and beautiful scenery, it was lovely to get away from the typical tourist route for a few days (we saw three other Gringos over the three days of walking, one of whom was wearing a Portsmouth football shirt) and it was the cheapest thing we’ve done since we left home! Winner!
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