Starting from Latacunga we took a two hour bus ride to Sigchos. We stepped off the bus with 15 other tourists and asked the first person we saw for directions to the trail head. During our day of hiking we passed through farms, enjoyed spectaculars views of Toachi Canyon, and conversed with a 35 year old Swiss guy. We took breaks to chow on a pre packed lunch, rest in the shade, and to snap pictures. The Swiss guy, Samuel, explained that he was an engineer in a Toblerone chocolate factory. Crazy thing is we had met Samuel in Banos, Ecuador at a hostel and discussed a few treks that we both planned on doing.
We arrived in Insilvi and on our way to the hostel I tripped and landed on my camera shattering the screen. I was crushed but thankful I hadn’t split my chin. Our hostel was fully booked and Samuel didn’t have a reservation so we said our goodbyes knowing we would see him on the trail the next day.
Hostel Llullu Llama is one for the books. An old farm house turned to cozy mountain home. With wood furnishings, comfy couches, fire places, and a view of Toachi Canyon, we were happy we planned ahead. We sipped cold beer, snuggled their massive Saint Bernard Baloo, and had a delicious family dinner with all the other hikers. We decided this is the cush life of backpacking. Who gets a hot shower, comfy bed, and a delicious 3 course meal while in the back country. It was pretty awesome.
We knew the hike ahead of us was only 4 hours so we had a slow morning sipping coffee and munching on what seemed to be an endless breakfast. With a kiss goodbye to Baloo we were back on the trail. Winding through farms, and up and down the canyon, we talked about how crazy the farmers are with their sheer cliff plantations and whether or not we could withstand the living conditions of some of the homes we passed.
We encountered kind herders that gladly allowed us to take pictures of their adorable goats and sheep. After a steep climb we were greeted by a eight month old, her mom, and grandma. The trio was full of love, kindness, and smiles.
Shortly after saying goodbye, we arrived at our next hostel. We spent the night getting to know six wonderful people. Kara and Vincent from Indiana, Stephen and Connie from England, and Nicole and Corinne from Switzerland.
Side note: when we arrived in Chugchilan we searched for a store selling our favorite snack, habas (a cooked bean that is a salty crunchy snack). The first store we walked into was owned by a friendly woman named Narcisa. Shocked that we spoke Spanish she asked if we would be willing to help her with a few business ideas. Narcisa’s dream is to open a hostel and is unsure what tourists look for in a place to stay. We spent an hour touring her house, answering questions, and coming up with ideas. We exchanged numbers and told her if she ever had any questions she could always call or text us. The next day we stopped by her shop, gave her a big hug, and wished her luck.
The following day we woke up early, ate breakfast and got on the trail with our new friends. First, we got a little lost and a three or four year old girl came to our rescue to show us the way. Shortly after we met a pack of school kids who wanted their picture taken. Instead, Taylor gave his camera to the eldest of them, and he snapped pictures of everyone else.
After the last portion of our ascent (or so we thought) we arrived at Quilotoa Lake. A beautiful lake caused by a volcanic eruption 800 years ago, causing a massive crater. It’s a small scale Crater Lake and absolutely breath taking.
We oooed and aahed then took the first trail we saw to get to the small town of Quilotoa. What we didn’t realize is this trail is not the “normal” path. It’s a single track trail on a cliff side. With loose rocks and tired legs, one step misplaced and you’d be long gone. Senses heightened and adrenaline pumping, I felt like my toes were claws, trying to grip for my life. Scurrying over boulders and gripping to anything I could get my hands on was the most stressed I’ve been on this entire trip.
When we finally reached the top of the ridge where the “normal” path was I think all eight of us sighed with relief…safety at last. Just a quick fifteen minute walk from there and we were at our final destination.
Taylor and I decided it was necessary to feel the water that shined bright blue in all the pictures we had taken. We took a path down to the water, touched it with a toe, and I turned to Taylor and said jumping in was a must.
With a little hesitancy at first we stripped down and plunged ourselves into the ice cold water. We were unprepared for how cold the water was going to be. We sprawled like lizards looking for the warmest spot in the sun. The view from the shoreline was stunning. Steep peaks surrounding the turquoise and indigo lake.
What a feeling, with nature like this it rejuvenates you, gives you energy, you feel gratitude for life, thankful that there are places like this, places to encourage you to explore more. What a hike and what a place to end.