Quilotoa Loop, Part 4: You Probably Will Think That This Is Gross

So this tale starts on day three, after Carrie’s knee gave out and we almost had to sleep with the llamas.  We were so hungry from not eating lunch, luckily our hostel (it should have been called a HOTEL since it was the most expensive place we had stayed so far on this trip.  Hooray for hostel reviews!) had an included dinner so we were able to stuff our faces.  The food was alright, not as good as at Llullu Llama, but satisfying after a long, long day.  After eating, quite full, we went straight to bed.  But we were so sore that it was impossible to get comfortable and we were getting feverish from our terrible sunburns.  My stomach started to get queasy, and before long I was hunched over the toilet awaiting the inevitable.  Every half hour throughout the night involved running to the bathroom, vomiting several times, re-brushing my teeth (because you always assume each time is the last), drinking a little bit of water, then lying back down to strange fever dreams.  The night slid by at a snails’ pace.  Carrie also couldn’t sleep but only from fever and soreness, not from nausea.  It got late so all the stores were closed and we didn’t have our big backpacks full of an amazing amount of medicines to cure anything short of cancer.  Sometime in the night we ran out of bottled water.  Soon nothing else would come out of my stomach but, already dehydrated from hiking, my body wasn’t liking the lack of fluids in my system.  I feel back asleep for a minute and dreamed that if I cut off a piece of my pinky and sent it to South Africa, they would bring me a bottle of Fanta.  I remember only deciding not to do it because it would take several days to get my soda.  At this point I woke up and threw up some more (where does it come from!!!) and washed off my face in the sink.  The tap water was refreshing and cold.  “Well,” I told myself “how much sicker could you get.”  So I took a sip, then another, then a gulp.  It was the most delicious water, and I stopped dreaming of Fanta for a minute.

Before the sun came up, I woke Carrie and made her go in search of sanitary liquids.  She found some apple juice in the unlocked hostel kitchen which tasted good going down and coming back up.  After dawn, the shops nearby opened and I woke to her entering the room with water and a Fanta.  I checked to be sure my pinky was all there.  It was.  I was finally beginning to think that I might make it through this day alive.  Then Carrie found out that the last bus to Latacunga left at 10 am, so I had to get my act together.  The liquids were staying down and eventually I was able to weakly get myself out of bed.  “I can do this!” I kept saying before retreating back to my bed.  But by 9:45 I got myself dressed and we went to wait for the bus.  This three block walk shook me up enough that I lost all my Fanta to a trash can.  There were some interesting things inside that trash can that I examined for some time.

The bus came and it was a bumpy and miserable journey.  It was about a three hour trip to Latacunga but I made it without having anymore puking fits (this due to the fact that I didn’t put anything into my stomach).  Once in the city we had to go collect our big backpacks at the hostel where we had them stored and then we took a taxi to the bus company, Cita Express, that had direct buses to Otavalo, bypassing Quito.  We bought our tickets and waited for the 4pm bus.  When it arrived, they said they didn’t have any room and gave us our money back.  “No more buses today,” they said and we got so frustrated that we yelled at them in English.  Stay here?  Go to Quito?  What do we do?  We were quite discouraged.   But a guy came and said that there was a bus that passed at 5pm and hopefully they would have open seats.  So we sat around some more and I was able to get some more liquids down.  The bus did pass at 5 and luckily had just enough seats (though Carrie had to fight an old Quechua lady for the last spots).  I fell right asleep and didn’t wake until we got into Otavalo.  Once last taxi to our hostel and the horrible, miserable day was over.

So what do I think caused my sickness?  There were 16 other people that ate that dinner and no one else got sick.  However, Carrie and I were completely and utterly exhausted, so possibly, had there been even the smallest problem with the food, our bodies would not have been able to fight it off.  I believe the fever was from over-exposure to the sun, but I did feel fine up until about one hour after eating.  I’m officially blaming the food.  That means the two times that I got the sickest on this trip were after eating at a super expensive and fancy buffet, and after eating at a super expensive and fancy hotel.  So for all you people that constantly comment about how scary street food is, how about them apples?

Start at the beginning with PART 1

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
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.

Laguna Quilotoa
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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Quilotoa Loop, Part 2: Ecuador Hiking from Isinlivi to Chugchilan

Quilotoa Loop, Part 2: Ecuador Hiking from Isinlivi to Chugchilan

After a wonderfully healthy and filling breakfast at Hostal Llullu Llama, we headed out for our second day on the Quilotoa Loop, Ecuador hiking.  We had some directions from the hostel, which we had been making fun of the night before (with a guy who had just done the hike in reverse).  There were many lines such as “take a left at the fork after passing several earth walls” or “when you see a small farm in front of you…”  After starting out and making several wrong turns, we eventually found the “earth walls” and from there it was pretty straightforward.  Oh, except for the “log bridge” that we thought was this one:

Quilotoa Loop, Part 2: Ecuador Hiking from Isinlivi to Chugchilan

The directions clearly stated that we were to cross a “log bridge on our right.”  Even the night before we were told that it was more like “a tree that has been fallen in the proper place.”  However, after crossing this tree and following the path for about 20 more minutes, we stumbled upon a second log bridge, one that was much wider, seeming a little more like a bridge and a little less like a downed tree.  Oh well, our way was more fun.  You try doing this with thousands of dollars of electronics on your back! Ecuador hiking sure is an adventure!

Quilotoa Loop, Part 2: Ecuador Hiking from Isinlivi to Chugchilan

The hike was easy and beautiful until the end when the trail took a hard upward slant.  By hard I mean it was super steep and we were tired and just wanted to get there.  Add that to the high altitude and goofy directions and we were about to be in bad moods.  Luckily, soon enough we made it to the top and had a chat with a friendly local.  He confirmed that we were going the right direction and that we only had one more hour to go.  The trail turned into a road and soon we were fighting for space with the local motorcycles driven by small children (seriously…all the 12-year-olds seemed to be driving them…scary).  We passed a school and bought some popsicles (every school has several weirdos in front of it selling candy and ice cream to the kiddies).  Whenever we need a little boost, not much is better than frozen treats!  Before we knew it we were walking up the driveway of our next hostel in Chugchilan, just under the minimum time that we were told the hike would take.  14km in five hours, not bad!  We spent the rest of the afternoon resting because, man, that equatorial sun is killer!

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Quilotoa Loop – Ecuador Part 1: Latacunga to Isinlivi

The Quilotoa Loop is an amazing dirt-road route stretching from Latacunga to Laguna Quilotoa and then back.  It’s full of tiny villages, breathtaking views, and authentic markets.  Traversing the loop involved a few buses and lots of hiking!

We stayed one night in Latacunga at the beginning of the loop, and also left our big bags there so we wouldn’t be saddled with them while hiking.  The most remarkable thing about Latacunga is that it has been destroyed no less than THREE times by Volcán Cotopaxi.  We found this interesting because Latacunga is a lot farther away from Cotopaxi than Baños is from Volcán Tungurahua.  And the people of Baños say it can’t be destroyed, ha!

The first day of the Quilotoa Loop we took a bus 20 minutes to the Thursday market in Saquisili.  Lots of fun stuff in the market there!

Quilotoa Loop
Hand-crafted rope
Quilotoa Loop
Local women selling produce.
Quilotoa Loop
The best snack in Ecuador: mini corn pancakes filled with cheese and onion!
Quilotoa Loop
Quilotoa Loop
Huge bundles of bananas. We had to take a picture to compare height.
Quilotoa Loop
The best way to end a morning at the market…the ice cream truck!

After the market we caught a bus three more hours (plus one more for a flat tire) to Isinlivi, where we stayed at the amazing Hostal Llullu Llama and made great friends with the only two other people there!  A wonderful start to the Quilotoa Loop!

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