Just about a month ago, during my parents stay, we journeyed up into the mountains to escape the smog of Quito. We took a bus from Quito to Latacunga which is the main town around the Quilotoa loop. The town reminded me a little of Cuenca because of its cobblestone streets and abundant parks and plazas. Similarly, there was even a mediocre microbrewery. We stayed at the lovely Hostal Tiana, an old colonial style house that had been painted in brilliant colors and decorated with an overflow of succulents. From the roof, we had a great view of the whole town and countryside beyond.
While roaming through the streets in search of the perfect bakery, we stumbled upon a hole in the wall place that was overflowing with bizcoitos, little biscuit/ biscotti type cookies available as de sal or de dulce (savory or sweet). Always on a food adventure, we next ventured over to the mercado central to purchase an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole wheat rolls. For the first time since I arrived in South America, I saw lychee being sold so we bought a small bag of the eyeball-looking fruits for a snack. By far the worst food adventure of the trip was the Chinese food that we ate for dinner in Latacunga. Apparently going out for dinner is very uncommon in that town and after walking all of the main streets and finding nothing open, we settled for a Chinese restaurant (that was surprisingly in my Lonely Planet too). I ordered a rice, veggie and chicken dish which later turned out to be the safe option. It was decent. My parents and Brent all order the noodles, all three of which arrived on giant platters (one noodle dish would have been enough to split with three people) and absolutely saturated in sauce, and then some. If you managed to find a bite that was not drenched, the taste was actually okay though. Nevertheless, we had a lot of leftovers for a few days.
After a day and a half in Latacunga, we hopped on the bus to Quilotoa. The scenic drive was absolutely stunning, at least that’s what I remember from the times when I wasn’t sleeping. We drove through small villages and hillsides covered in straw huts and crops of quinoa, onions, wheat and corn. The curvaceous roads led us up to the end of the road in Quilotoa. When we were disembarking, the driver reminded us that to catch the bus back, make sure to be there at 1pm because there is only one return trip every day. This was the first sign that Quilotoa was something quiet and special to be preserved. We excitedly walked up the town’s one lane road until we reached the end where Hostal Chukirawa was located:
The owners of this hostel were probably some of the gentlest people that I’ve met and somehow they always sensed when we needed something, especially when we were hungry. Because of the winds and cold temperatures, they graciously served us hearty meals with soups, meat, rice and lots of vegetables. At night, one of the men even came into our room and started a fire for us that made the room so warm we all stripped down to our skivvies.
The fresh air, pristine nature, and quietness immediately made me fall in love with the area. I think I took about thirty different pictures of the lake from varying angles (that mostly look the same), but I’ll try to limit how many I post. Here goes:
This is the view from the top where the village is.
Horses at the bottom for those not-so-fit tourists who need a rescue back up to the top – the trail was a bit harsh, especially at that altitude and having less oxygen to breathe.
Inside the crater! The water was a bit chilly but refreshing, although we couldn’t convince anyone to jump in.
People also hike what is known as the Quilotoa Loop, where you hike from town to town in the general area, but we didn’t have four or five days to spare. Instead, we hiked along the rim trail and met lots of hardworking villagers along the way. Men, women, children, dogs, horses, cows and sheep all greeted us on the trail. What amazed me was how men worked in study rubber boots to till the land while the women worked in simple black flats. One reason why living here is so great is because any and every stranger that you pass will stop to greet you. I started walking with a chatty village woman and after five minutes we seemed like old friends. The ease at which she opened up and shared stories about the town and her family was extraordinary. She even described the crazy white boy who was running along the trail (that would be Brent) – apparently everyone working really loved seeing him and they all laughed because it was funny to seem someone running for pleasure along the route they used for work.
Brent on the run!
Someone’s (abandoned?) house along the rim trail. My parents and I decided we could leave Brent there.
Our last stop was to the local crafts cooperative so that Brent and I could become proud alpaca-poncho owners. My mother was also tricked into buying more scarves; they’re quite beautiful and unlike any other fabrics or patterns. Promptly at 1pm the bus arrived to whisk us back to Latacunga where we would catch another bus and taxi and finally arrive home in Quito, cold and hungry and embracing the rain that had just begun.