Quilotoa Loop, Part 3: Chugchilan to Laguna Quilotoa…and back.

Some days you just don’t have any luck.  This was one of them.  After the previous day’s 14km, we were not super excited for another big hike.  We heard that walking from Chugchilan to Laguna Quilotoa was pretty grueling, with a 900m elevation gain, but that there were buses there that we could take and then have a pleasant hike back.  This is what we wanted to do.  But nope, as soon as we finished breakfast and prepared to leave, the hostel manager told us that there were no buses to Quilotoa town that day and we would have to either hike or hire a truck for $25.  Of course there was no way we were willing to pay that much, so we set out on foot, planning to man up to the difficult hike there and then take a bus back after seeing the lake.
The hike was steadily uphill almost the whole way and at altitude it was tough.  We stayed positive and strong and made it through the 10km in under four hours.  As soon as we arrived in Quilotoa town, of course we saw a bus pulling in from Chugchilan!  Thanks hostel manager, for the proper information!  Oh well.

Laguna Quilotoa, a volcanic crater lake

The lake was gorgeous and we snapped a few photos.  But even if we had had enough energy to walk part of the trail around it we couldn’t have, because my knee was pretty sore; I guess I had pulled or twisted something on the hike to Chugchilan the day before and continuing to stress it wasn’t helping.  But all was well, we thought, “We’ll take the last bus out of town.”  The general consensus of people we asked was that this bus left at 2pm, although there were a few differences of opinion on this matter.  We had seen many buses coming this direction on the way so figured catching one would be easy.

Hiking back to Chugchilan

WRONG!  After sitting by the road for a few minutes, we got too cold so decided to just start hiking down and let the bus catch up to us.  Maybe save a few cents, we figured.  One hour later, we’re at the point where the trail diverges from the road, out of water, my knee is killing me, and there have been no signs of any buses….
I think you know where this is going. OF COURSE we ended up hiking the whole way back.  By the end I was literally crying, limping, and leaning on Zach with most of my weight; my knee hurt so badly.  Luckily we found someone selling water bottles so we didn’t get too dehydrated.  We finally hobbled back into town five hours after we left.  Sunburned badly?  Yes.  Exhausted, sore, and frustrated?  Yes, yes, and yes.  So what is the issue here?  Do the buses not really have a schedule and just run when they feel like making some money?  Probably.  Do people give us made-up information when they don’t really know the answers?  I think so.  It’s one part of backpacking South America that will never be very fun.  The crater lake was gorgeous but was it worth all that?  Don’t think so.  At least we made it through what will go down in history as our worst hike ever.  And don’t worry, a few days of rest were all it took to heal my knee.

But unfortunately, this night was about to get even worse…

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