Micah: Unmitigated

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Posts Tagged ‘Quilotoa Loop’

Cool Blue Reason

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Laguna Quilotoa is pretty spectacular. It’s a 2 hour bus ride from Latacunga, that rises up 1,200 meters to 4,000 at the rim of the crater lake. The air is thin, the temperature is chilly, but the views are amazing.

Laguna Quilotoa

Laguna Quilotoa

I stayed 2 nights in a hostal a few steps from the rim, paying $10 a night for a warm bed, two meals, and a wood burning stove to sit around. All necessary after getting rained on my first afternoon of hiking down to the lake. The first night (Thursday), it was just me, a German guy, and the host family, drinking tea and hot chocolate by the fire.

Friday: I hiked around the rim, stopping often to catch my breath and take pictures. The weather was near perfect, with early views of a pair of snow capped peaks. I was unprepared for the sunshine though and subsequently burnt my nose for the umpteenth time this trip. The circular path takes about 5 hours, but I stetched it out to 7, sitting on the rim watching the afternoon clouds.

The Lake and I

The Lake and I

The white fluffy stuff would creep over the far side from the surrounding valleys, dissipating before it could reach the water. That night, I shared the fire with a funny couple from Finland and a Dutch couple.

I tried to compare this site with “Crater Lake” in Oregon though it has been a few years. Quilotoa is smaller, higher up, doesn’t have the cone in the middle, the water is not as clear, the rim is more well defined and better for hiking, it’s cheaper, and I would call the surrounding views about equal. So, it kind of depends on what you like.

more Laguna

more Laguna

Saturday: Looked at the lake some more before grabbing some lunch and meeting a guy from the US. He was a cool guy, originally from the Bay Area, who took pity on this long term vagabond and paid for my meal. We were both planning to be in the city of Baños on Sunday, and exchanged info in order to meet up. Thus, he will make another appearance in this blog.

I got a ride to the bus stop from the American and his guide, and was joined there by the Dutch couple from the previous night. Our next destination, the village of Chugchilán and some altitude relief. The thrilling ride measured only about 14 km, but lasted nearly 2 hours. Being market day, each stop of the crowded bus required multiple sacks to be unloaded and people to be squeezed out. The highlight was the old drunk man, sitting on a sack of potatoes in the aisle. He was the butt of constant jokes by nearby Ecuadorians, but also behaved inappropriately toward some women. The driver decided to kick him off the bus about 30 minutes before his desired destination. He was removed by a few men and placed on the ground, before clumsily attempting to chase down his departing transportation. I laughed, but only because I was confident he would be able to procur another ride shortly.

My accommodations in Chugchilán were in another comfortable mountain hostal, full of adventurous souls. Meal and drinks were had with the Dutch couple, a nice British couple, a young German man, and friendly older Canadian man. I was tempted by their tales and plans for hiking between villages, but felt like I had already done the signature trek and that an altitude related cold was imminent.

Sunday: I set my sights on getting back to civilization and down to the 1,800 meter high town of Baños. I completed the “Quilotoa Loop” by catching another crowded market day bus 1.5 hours north to Sigchos. There, transfered to a Latacunga bus and stood through 2 hours of hairpin turns. A young girl threw up in a plastic bag and a woman with a baby fainted in the aisle. Both would survive.

I arrived at my destination after 7 hours and 4 buses, but was still able to do some of my best hostal hunting. The Lonely Planet place wanted near $7 for a dorm, the next 2 places were cheaper but not that nice, then I found Hostal Carolina and the best value I have seen traveling. For $6, I get a private room and bath, 2 beds (1 for building a little fort), TV, door opens onto the 3rd floor patio with views, central location yet quiet, free wifi downstairs, and a complimentary bar of soap. All of that and it is right across the street from where the Yank I met in Quilotoa is staying.

Now: Despite the lack of empanadas, I plan to hang out here for a week or so. They have a nice food market for cheap lunches and green hills all around for hiking. Plus, as those I have allowed to be my friend on Facebook know, Volcán Tungurahua is active and close-by. My goal is to stick around until I see lava (from a distance) and/or find a cheap Spanish school in Ecuador via the interweb. I need to get a date and location locked down or scratch it all together, so that I can map out the rest of my time here. Por suerte, este volcán no requiere sacrificios.

E = 56

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Over the past week: I changed hemispheres a couple times, ventured deep into “Gringoland”, participated in the customary activities, and made it out nearly unscathed.

I arrived in Quito on Tuesday, the day before the 3rd US World Cup game. The next day, with the England game on at the same time and with me at the most popular sportsbar in town, I ran into 2 seperate brits I had met in Colombia. It was an exciting place to watch the game, with the England fans cheering on one side of the pub at their big screen, and us yelling at our smaller TV hanging over the bar. Only at the end was there much rejoicing and slapping of hands, and everyone left happy.

I proceeded to do my tourist duties and walked around checking out the museums, the Old Town, and numerous churches. Quito is actually a nice city, once you get away from all of the upscale bars and guys trying to sell you reefer. My favorite site was the “Basilica del Voto Nacional”, a gothic church set on a hill with towers you can climb.

view of city from tower

view of city from tower

Thursday, I checked another site off my list, the “Mitad del Mundo”or Equator. It is a silly place, with many shops and museums surrounding a line that they have drawn on the earth. I overpaid for one museum and for some reason decided to see a show at the planetarium, but more importantly got a picture of the sign.

the Ecuador, or is it?

The Equator, or is it?

The silliest thing about the whole place is that they have now determined using GPS that this is not the actual Equator. They were off by about a hundred meters and thus next door there is a smaller site with supposedly the real thing.  More importanly, they host the fun and games associated with changing hemispheres. They have water tricks showing a straight drain on the line and different directions a few feet on either side. Feats of strength were also performed, trying to show that there is less gravitational pull on the line, and I attempted to balance an egg on a nail. All very amusing, though the highlight of the day could have been that I was told I looked Israeli by a random Israeli girl on the bus back to town. I have always thought I looked too American and it was good to hear that as I cultivate more hair, I can assume another identity if needed. Though it would be tough to learn Hebrew and I don’t think my family would let me convert to Judaism.

Next on the Quito tourist list, a ride up the Teleferico. A cable car takes you up to about 4100 meters with great views of the city below. The main reason I paid the $8.50 foreigner price, was for the access to climb the last 700 meters to the top of Pichincha Volcano.

this is it

This is it

Another fun ridge with great weather and views. Less strenuous than the last volcano, the 2.5 hr hike only had me on the verge of quitting a few times. The people coming down told me that all you could see was the white of the clouds but I was blessed with semi-clear skies for my final ascent and time at the top. Some scrambling was required, which means I had to use my hands to climb rocks, but that made it more fun.

I am number 1

I am number 1

views on the way down

views on the way down

I found a way down from the top that didn’t require much reverse scrambling and had a blast following a sandy/ashy avalanche path that felt like skiing. It was a great break from all of the people back in town and at my hostel. But when I got back, I went ahead and joined the birthday celebration and had the first dance club  experience of my trip. It was a lot of fun to mingle with a big group of fellow travelers of all shapes, sizes, and itineraries. Especially when you meet a fellow kickballer who plays in D.C. and has enjoyed similiar success on the field.

With my tourist obligations complete, I layed around Saturday with the other revelers and watched the final US World Cup game.  Then we hit the local Mongolian grill restaurant where I nearly got down 4 plates of bland tasting concoctions, despite how much or what sauce I put on. Sunday I departed.

I am now in another market town called Latacunga. This one seems to be bustling everyday, with an area the size of 2 city blocks filled with fresh produce and random items. Despite being here for 2 days, I have not yet fully experienced the joys of this town, with my body apparently trying to remind me how old I am after my 5 nights in ¨The Party Hostel¨. I had dreaded entering Quito, hearing stories of muggings and pant slashings, but in the end I really enjoyed the big city. Now I long for the fresh air I breathed while on my volcano hike.  My next destination is the Quilotoa Loop, a bumpy circular route through the mountains with small towns and a spectacular crater lake. Voy a tratar de escribir más a menudo.

E = 56