Friday morning I got to the Latacunga bus terminal at 6:30am to catch the first bus heading out towards Quilotoa. I had heard I may need to piece together the transportation to the crater so I wanted to get an early jump before the weather could change in the afternoon. At the terminal I met Eva, a much older woman form the Czech Republic who was also planning on seeing the crater. We ate breakfast in the terminal together while waiting for the bus and then headed out together. We first took the bus about 2 hours out to Zambuhua, and got out there since it was continuing on down the mountains toward the coast. So here we hired a pickup truck or "camioneta" to take us the rest of the way to Quilotoa.
As soon as we got to the rim of the lake I was blown away. Quilotoa is an old inactive volcano, whose crater has now been filled by a gorgeous emerald-blue lake. With bright sun and clear skies that early in the morning the scene was really striking. We spoke to our driver and some other guys that were in the area for a bit. One man there had a lot of professional camera equipment so I borrowed his wide-angle lens to hold up to my digital camera which produced some cool results. Eva is an artist so she wanted to walk down to the water and sketch for a while, and I wanted to hike the rim. So we split up and I started walking at about 10am.
It was a beautiful and peaceful walk. I enjoyed and appreciated the alone tiime it gave me, especially at this late stage of my trip, even more than I expected to. The entire 4.5 hours it took me to walk around the rim were really magical and felt great in many different ways. I took breaks at times to eat some of my snacks, to take pictures, and just to sit and take in the scenery. The trail for the most part stayed right up on the edge of the crater, though at times dipped into it and at other times went around the outside. What started out as a crystal clear day had clouds slowly start rolling in by half-way through my hike, and the crater had a complete lid of fast-moving clouds before I even finished. Towards the end I met two guys from Australia and Spain who had hiked up from one of the villages in the valley which seemed like it would be cool. I crossed paths with them at one of the times when the trail was on the outisde of the rim, so they had no idea if they were even close to the lake when in actuality they were about 20 yards below the edge.
For the last slittle bit the main trail meets up with this trail that connects to other villages, so I started seeing some local traffic. A grouo of young boys and girls stopped me at one point and we got into a short conversation. They convinced me to give them my water, and I asked them to pose for some photos.
All in all it was a wonderful experience and I am so glad I made it out there. We hired another camioneta to take us back down to the bus connection spot, which was an interesting short ride since we stopped about every 2 minutes to pile more people into the back of the pickup with us.
When we got back to Latacunga I checked with the tour agencies to see if anyone had signed up to climb Cotopaxi the next day, and nobody had. So I decided I would head out that same night to Quito, which was only 2 hours away. This way I could be in a bigger city for the weekend, and as I explained before, I could still do Cotopaxi from there.
I walked out with my packs to the Panamericana highway where buses pass frequently on their way to Quito. I could not believe that after 8 months I was actually returning to Quito, possibly for my last significant bus ride of the entire trip.