Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Quilotoa´s incredible crater lake

For my birthday I decided I wanted to do something a little different than the usual meal in a restaurant; how does travelling 3800m high to a volcanic crater lake sound?!

We left Quito to the southern bus terminal, Quitumbe ($10 taxi). We took a bus going to Latacunga ($1.75, 2h), a main stop on the Panamerican highway. From Latacunga we took a public bus ($2, 2h) that was supposed to leave at noon but was 45mins late.

The bus ride up the mountains was windy and a bit scary as the side of the road disappeared leaving just inches between the bus and a sheer drop! We continued to climb higher until we were in the cloud band where we couldn't see a thing! Miraculously, the driver knew what he was doing and we arrived in the tiny town of Quilotoa which strangely looked a lot like Scotland in the winter. Pouring rain, freezing cold and negligible visibility .
Feels like I never left Scotland

We chose the first accommodation we came across which was Quilotoa Cabanas ($12pp, inc. breakfast and dinner). We had no desire to look around due to he awful weather so we went inside the dining room/ lounge area where there was a wonderful wood burning stove surrounded by sofas and two giant kettles continually boiling on top of the stove, which meant endless cups of tea... I was in heaven!

In the process of making Harry´s hat
We got talking to the local indigeous women who ran the lodge. They were extremely friendly and funny! Harry even got his own personalised hat made for him by one of the woman who was knitting on the sofas with us.

We played cards and had dinner made for us.
That night we fell alseep to the wood burning stove in our bedroom which made the room nice and toasty as it was freezing and pouring outside. Now thats comfort! We just hoped the weather would be better in the morning.

Weather wasn't great when we woke up but at least the rain had stopped. We walked down to the crater edge and what a view! The photos do not do it justice. We had planned to walk down to the lake (2h round trip) or around the crater (4-5h) but it was so cold so we settled for some jumping photos instead!
The path leading to the lake

We were surprised about how out-of-breath we were when we had to climb up a few stairs coming back; there's only 60% oxygen at 3800m altitude.  We descided to move on because of the weather to our next destination, Banos. Had the weather been better (it was the rainy season) we would have stayed and hike around the area and the other small towns.

Normally the bus leaves Quilotoa at 1pm but we managed to get a personalised pick up truck lift down the mountain (4 people at $6 each). From Latacunga we had to change at Ambato ($1, 1.5h) then catch the 2.30pm bus to Banos ($2, 2h).

Unique place with far less tourists, totally worth the journey to get there.

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