Quilatoa: There and Back in a Day

I usually try to avoid travelling with a time limit. Scheduling is not one of my strengths. But, I had five days to see Ecuador.

I headed to the mountains and tried to fit in as many Canon friendly moments as possible. For those who have been to Ecuador, you would know that this isn’t really much of a challenge.

Luckily, my short stop was still enough time to trip out to Quilatoa. A big, blue, crater lake settled high up in the mountains.

The Quilatoa Loop is a pretty well known trek for Ecuadorian travellers. It takes four days and finishes at the lake. With my time crunch, I skipped right to the end and did it in a day.

After spending the night in the nearby town, Latacunga, we got up early, took on the cold, and headed to the bus stop.

The bus was packed! We spend the first hour and a half standing. Eavesdropping on a group of students as they flirted and bickered.

It took us two hours to get to the Quilatoa village. The wind almost took us away as we climbed off the bus. I wrapped my scarf tighter around me, and we walked up to the lakes edge.

The lake was spectacular. It seemed so strange just nestled there in the middle of the mountain.

We tossed up whether to walk the steep, sandy path down to the water, or circle our way around the summit. The wind up the top was strong and freezing cold. We decided to trek down and avoid it.

The walk down was pretty difficult. It was steep, and the sand made it a challenge to stay upright, but the view was an easy distraction. We finally had sunshine and we were totally protected from the wind.

It took about half an hour to get to the bottom. Made much slower by my constant photo taking, and the pauses to give way to donkeys and ponies taxiing people to-and-fro.

After much slipping and stumbling, we arrived at the bottom and found a totally empty spot on the edge of the water. Hot, from the climb down, I pulled off my shoes, rolled up my pants and stepped into crystal clear water.

I was beautiful.  If the water weren’t so cold I would have dived straight in.

We sat, splashed around for a while and explored around the bottom of the lake. Trying our best to delay the dreaded walk back up.

We decided to walk up to the top, despite all the friendly looking horses and donkeys that were lined up ready to take us.

As we struggled up, trying somehow to get a grip on the sandy ground, we watched the locals leading mules, overtake us, in sandals, with ease. We were left behind in a cloud of their dust which, by then, completely covered us.

Just under an hour of scrambling finally got us to the top. Our water bottles were drained, we were out of breath, filthy and starving. With a last glance behind us, we said goodbye to the big, beautiful lake and crowded into one of the local restaurants for lunch.

Ecuador amazed me. Funny, little, cement towns nestled in such grand and dramatic scenery. It’s a country that surrounds you in natural wonders and leaves you awestruck.

Quilatoa, was packed with colour, wonder and every type of weather. I could have stayed and stared for a lifetime but, for now, just one day will have to do!

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