Hiking the Quilotoa loop, Ecuador
May 15, 2014 – May 17,2014
After Banos, Ecuador we went northwest to the Quilotoa loop, an area around the Quilotoa caldera, a massive crater that is the only remnants of the once huge Quilotoa Volcano, it offers great views of its bright green water and lots of hiking.
Taking a two hour bus from Banos to Latacunga, we stayed the night at Hotel Endamo which offered a bag holding service, so the next day we left our large packs there and took only our day packs the rest of the way to Quilotoa.
We were the only non-indigenous people on the bus to Quilotoa, and stood out without the bowler hats all the locals were wearing. Quilotoa is a tiny indigenous town built literally on the lip of the massive caldera, many buildings peek over the side and down at the amazing view.
We arrived too late in the day to attempt the hike from Quilotoa to Chugchilan so we instead satisfied ourselves by walking part way around the caldera, snapping pictures and admiring the bright green water, so colored because it contains acidic chemicals from the massive eruption which created it. That evening we watched locals playing Ecua-volley a game of volleyball but with much higher nets that the locals take very seriously. In some small villages the covered and well lit Ecua-volley courts are the biggest and most modern structures you can see. We bought some snacks that evening from an 8 year old girl attending her parent’s shop. We helped her with some of the math to add up the total of our purchases.
A hike from the crater rim town of Quilotoa to Chugchilan was our goal, a scenic mountain trail that was supposedly hard to follow without a guide, our hostel offered to find us a guide for US $30.00-35.00 and assured us the trip was not possible without one. We later spoke to some actual guides who offered to lead us for US $25.00. In South America everyone is happy to help for a price, or at least find someone who can, for their small cut. When it comes to hiking you will always get a recommendation to take a guide though it is often unclear if a guide is actually needed or not. As it was getting late and foggy we waited until the next morning, which was bright and clear and we could easily see the path to Chugchilan and elected to try the impossible hike sans guide.
It turned out to be an easy trail to follow, and was actually fairly well marked. Though admittedly it was easier because we could see our destination in the distance, had it been cloudy or foggy it is easy to see how a hiker could become disoriented or even lost. I would recommend starting early and on a clear day, or take a good map.
The hike which was supposed to take around 6 hours ended up only taking 4 and a half. We passed the little town of Guayama, met some kids on a farm and spent ten minutes playing with them, and forded a small river that had washed out the bridge.
From Chugchilan we caught a colectivo to Sigchos where we could catch a bus back to Latacunga and our waiting bags.