19.09. – 26.09.2016
Alrighty, since we are already super professional hikers (not really ;)), and heard from many people that the Quilotoa Loop is on every hikers bucket list, we cannot miss it! 🙂 Basically, the 3-4 day loop takes travelers on a bumpy road into the area around the Quilotoa volcano lake, leading through several villages with indigenous people and through a beautiful landscape.
It took us a little bit of planning before we got started, because we needed to leave our luggage somewhere and pack only what was necessary. We also booked our hostels in advance, which turned out to be not really necessary – most of the hostels in the villages you pass have vacancies. The trek can be done either starting at the volcano lagoon Quilotoa and end up in Latacunga, or in reverse to end up at the beautiful lake, which is the tougher trek. Guess which one we chose? 🙂 Yes, the harder one!
At our hostel in Latacunga (called “Latacunga Hostel”) the owner offered us to leave our stuff we wouldn’t pack in his storage room for free . So friendly! And now the packing started – what do we need for 4 days hiking in a height of over 3.000m and very cold nights… actually everything we have. 🙂 But we had to be aware that our backpacks would be on our backs all day long, so packing light was crucial. 3 T-shirts, 2 pants, 2 long sleeves, warm socks, and of course a warm jacket! It was actually the first time for us that we hiked with our big backpacks for several days and so we thought we’re helplessly over-packed. 🙂 In the end, it turned out that everything we carried with us we did need and that you get used to the weight pretty quick. If I learnt something on our trip, it would be, among many other things of course, to pack only what I really need…so satisfying. 😉
Okay, here we go, ready for the first big trek! We took a bus from Latacunga to Sigchos at 11:30am ( here is another one leaving at 10:30am or 12:15pm). The bus dropped us off together with 4 other tourists who obviously planned to hike the loop as well. We came to talk and noticed that they had a good map. We had none. So we better walked all together. 😉 Good decision, because with 2 of the 4 we hiked the rest of the loop and it was a lot of fun – Sonja and Artur from Germany were the perfect match for our hiking pace and great company. The first part of the trail led us on a 3.5 hours hike through green landscapes and a river valley up to Isinlivi, a small mountain village. We checked in the first hostel (called “Llullu Llama”, highly recommended!) and fell in love with this place! The fireplace was already lit on, there was coffee and tea for free and from the dining room and terrace we had a spectacular view over the valley. The sun just went down and we enjoyed these silent moments… Shortly after, dinner was served, consisting of a soup as a starter, lasagna and cake as dessert. It was so delicious! After a comfy night in the dorm beds, we enjoyed breakfast: they served homemade granola, tons of fruit, delicious bread – just perfect for a long hiking day.
Day 2 started with great weather and warm temperatures. We hiked on stony paths and encountered very aggressive dogs which were fought off by Artur with his walking sticks. 🙂 Luckily, we never got lost on our way, thanks to the great map we received from Llullu Llama hostel… okay, we also had a bunch of electronic help. 😉 The trek went uphill and downhill and lasted around 5 hours. We took several small breaks, for example when it suddenly started to rain and we hid in a small cabin or when we crossed a river balancing on a tree which served as a bridge. We’re living such a risky life. 🙂 In the afternoon, we arrived at Chugchilán and checked in the hostel “Cloud Forest”, which was unfortunately not as nice as the first one but served dinner and breakfast as well.
The next and last day would be the longest hike for us, because we needed to go all the way up to the Quilotoa lake as high as 3.900m. This day was the most challenging one! We constantly walked either uphill or downhill, had narrow paths but also great views over the valley and the beautiful mountains and kept either putting one layer off or on due to the changing weather conditions. We passed 2 villages where we met some indigenous school kids, being very curious about the “Gringos” and being even more curious about our sweets and candy we were about to eat. 😉 We kept hiking up and up and up and after 5.5 hours, the lake finally revealed itself with all its beauty. We made it! Strong winds welcomed us up there and that stunning view over this huge lake. Wow. It was amazing and worth to hike this exhausting trek. But: it was not the end of the hike, because we still needed to continue to the village where our hostel was. Another hour of hiking, uhh. We were all happy and exhausted when we arrived at the hostel. The charming part of this accommodation was that we had our own small oven in the room which we fired up immediately – it was super cold!! This hostel unfortunately didn’t offer free coffee or tea…we started at the best hostel and actually ended at the worst. 🙂 Anyway, we slept like rocks and the next day we took a a bus back to Latacunga, grabbing our things quickly to continue to the next place, Baños.
All in all, and my very personal resume of the hike: it was challenging for me. I am not a trained hiker and it’s not my biggest passion to steadily hike uphill. 😉 I had fights with myself, I wondered what the hell I’m actually doing and sometimes I also thought I reached my limits… but I continued (thanks to Jakub and chocolate bars ;)) and made it. So my personal lesson is: be aware of the physical condition you have and the requirements for the trek. And tell your brain you can go further. 🙂
Jakub’s comment: It was awesome, doable, fun 🙂
In Baños, a village known for its hot springs and the variety of outdoor offers we decided to calm down and enjoy relaxed days after the hike. Hence, the first evening we spent in the hot springs to relax the muscles and treated ourselves to a massage. The good life. 🙂
The next day we signed up for our first “we do it together for the very first time” experience: rafting! Meeting at 9am, we all got our wet suits at the agency, a helmet and shoes. Driving with the bus for one hour we arrived at the river and were assigned in different groups. Our guide told us where to sit in the raft, what the different orders he would be yelling mean and how to behave in case the river is to wild and the boat flips…which, according to the guide rarely happens. Well, we ended up in the water twice and found out that the guide purposely made the boat flip and laughed about it. Not really funny for us, exposing us to such a risk purposely, since the whole group was only beginners and for the first time in a raft. And I swallowed at least 5 liters of disgusting river water and totally panicked. Exactly the reaction our guide said we should avoid. 🙂 But the last hour was surprisingly fun (we didn’t fall in the water anymore), we rushed through the rapids and enjoyed the thrill. What an experience!
Jakub’s comment: It was awesome, doable, fun 🙂
Oh shut up, Jakub! 🙂 🙂
In total, we spent 5 days in Baños, seeing the “Casa del Arbol” from which a swing takes you into nowhere…
…and visited beautiful waterfalls.
Ahead of us, however, lies probably the greatest experience of our whole trip so far: the Galapagos islands!!! We are super excited for our boat and cannot wait to board. We’ll tell you aaaaaall about it when we return – now we’re on vacation. Haha. 🙂