- Quilotoa Loop – A circular path around a small section of Ecuador, consisting of cliff-hugging roads, endless hiking trails and a 3AM milk truck that encircles it all, the Quilotoa Loop was our first departure from the well-worn ¨Gringo Trail,¨ onto less-traveled, and more unfamiliar territory (unfamiliar = un Lonely Planet friendly). Our first stop along the loop was the city of Quilotoa, a tiny village set above an ancient volcanic lake, thriving with all of 100 citizens (the 13,000 ft altitude and nightly 50MPH winds probably play a role in the lack of long-term residents). With little to do besides walk the main strip (25 seconds), and visit the lake (a bit longer than 25 seconds), our next stop along the loop took us to the more ¨memorable¨ aspect of our 3 day journey – the hike to Chugchilan. Advertised as a 4-6 hour ¨downhill trek¨ (which of course consisted of an unmentioned 2-hour uphill section), we encountered one of the oddest entities to date – racist animals. Despite our inconspicuous clothing (i.e. bright yellow/pink ponchos), normally subdued animals around their Ecuadorian owners apparently became enraged when approached by ¨gringos.¨ Thus, after our 4 hour hike we managed to encounter the following list of angry animals:
3 Cows – All of which paused in their grazing as we neared, stared us down as we slowed, and then pursued at a fairly mild speed, head downwards, until a thankfully-placed rope limited their progress. Avoidance Technique Utilized = Walk around at a distance greater than ropes length.
15 Dogs – While most on our trek approached us with gnarled teeth and barks of fury (that could actually be a good title for a movie), 1 especially bold dog decided that I stepped a bit too close to his property, and took a nice bite at my leg. Although rabies-transmission is seemingly unlikely at this point (Laura promised to let me know if I start to show signs of insanity and/or uncontrollable fear of water), remaining dogs were approached with more caution. Avoidance Technique Utilized = Add numerous sticks and rocks to our ¨hiking gear.¨
2 Llama´s – Who attempted to block our path down the only road we could take. Avoidance Technique Utilized: Hold high a conveniently-placed staff located nearby (Note: Llama´s are terrified of staff-like objects. If Moses had parted a sea of Llama´s, I now know exactly how it must have felt).
After finally arriving in Chugchilan, with a few new emotional and physical scars to share, we were treated to the end of our journey with encouraging news that the only bus back the following day left in 10 hours, at 3AM. Thus concluding a fairly rapid, yet more eventful, trip around the Quilotoa Loop.
(After that novel of a story, the next few cities will be dumbed down a bit)
- Banos – Extreme sports capital of Ecuador (that mountain + water combo keeps seeming to do the trick). Highlights = 15 mile bike road down waterfall-scattered road, 3 days of Spanish lessons, a visit to some hot springs and an open-aired chiva bus ride up a volcano to listen to a incomprehensible Spanish comedian (3 days of classes did NOT come in handy for translating witty/topical Spanish humor). No extreme sports were partaken, as they did not pass the Skone threshold of extremeness. (For a lesson on extremeness, please read the following: The Skone Guide to Being Extreme)
- Cuenca – Pretty city. Highlights = Walking and commenting on prettiness.
- Vilcabamba – Amazing resort. Highlights = Relaxing and commenting on relaxibility factor. (You can visit Izhcayluma Resort if your curiosity wishes for a more in-depth description than the complete lack of one I provided -- I´m a blogger, not a travel writer).
Next Stop: Northern Peru
Onto the pics:
|Quilotoa - This is what a village of 100 people looks like. Almost a little too exciting to handle|
|Quilotoa Lake - Amazingly scenic lake at the bottom of a volcano (to gauge the size, it takes 6 hours to hike the circumference)|
|Sleeping in Quilotoa - Could have used another 15 pounds of blankets to officially suppress my lung´s ability to function|
|Our 4-hour completely downhill trail (minus that whole valley section) along the path of racist animals|
|Rain + Dog Bites = Awesome day|
|A Burro - The only non-aggressive animal in Ecuador|
|Banos = San Gil - Colombia + Ecuador|
|Biking down the 15 mile ¨Ruta de las Cascadas¨ (Waterfall Route)|
|And that would be a waterfall (aptly named Pailon de Diablo -- the Devil is a pretty popular guy in this continent)|
|Some local Ecuadorian children hanging out at the ¨relaxing¨ hot springs during their conveniently-timed 200 student field trip|
|Spanish-speaking parrots are much more hilarious than their English-speaking cousins|
|The least extreme, extreme bridge jump in the world|
|Cuenca - Beautiful city, and that´s about it|
|Took about 30 minutes to track down this Lonely Planet-inspired ¨Top 10 Places to Visit in Ecuador¨ photo|
|Awkward posing in Vilcabamba|