It had been a good couple of weeks since our last multi-day trek and Jen was starting to miss that feeling of being sweaty, sun-burnt and out-of-breath tramping up some mountains at altitude. Accordingly, we made plans to take off on the Quilotoa loop trek!
The Quilotoa loop is a walk through some beautiful and remote towns in the Ecuadorean highlands with the spectral grand finale of Laguna de Quilotoa. The laguna is a 3km wide lake situated in a volcanic crater with the crater rim standing at 3,915m.
They say you can’t do the loop without getting lost and we were certainly no exception! The set of directions we were given read more like a treasure map and had us tramping through local villager’s backyards searching for tiny goat tracks hidden by the thick scrub.
Tristan (despite previous bad experiences from Adventure Races) took charge leading Jen and our new German friend Desi off into the wild. He began to think at one point that he might have made a mistake when the path he chose lead off into a swamp. However, he kept going for another couple of kilometres just to be sure. Fortunately, Desi was present as a potential witness to prevent matricide taking place when he finally admitted that he might have made a “small” mistake that meant back tracking those couple of kilometres through the swamp and up a hill. It was a frosty walk from that point on… and then it started to rain.
Somehow we managed to make it to our accomodation for the first night without coming to any physical blows. At our hostel we were lucky enough to be upgraded from our dorm to a private bungalow complete with fireplace!
The comfort of our accomodation was not able to erase the painful memory of the hike for Desi and, following her violent glimpse into married life, she feigned an illness and was off on the first bus the next morning to Latacunga.
Day 2 did not get off to a much better start when our new walking companion was chased by some vicious dogs. Upon hearing the screams everyone did the right thing by taking off as fast as they could in the opposite direction, leaving poor Ali to her fate.
Thankfully, Tristan had relinquished the navigating duties which meant our second day did not involve any major deviations from the suggested path. After a tough climb out of the canyon we were greeted with some beautiful views over the valley and then continued on to our hostel in Chugcilan.
We started off early for Day 3 (the last day of the hike) and the toughest. It was 1,000m elevation gain from the town of Chugcilan up to the rim of the crater overlooking Quilota laguna. This meant of course that we would first need to descend a couple of hundred metres before even starting the climb!
We somehow managed to make it to the top and when we did were rewarded with some gorgeous views that made it all the worthwhile. Finally we made it back to our hostel where Jen crashed into a heap and said for 100th time she did not want to do any more hikes!