|The Quilitoa Circuit
This is a popular route which preserves an authentic feel in the many small villages and vast expanses of countryside. It is possible to complete using a series of buses. We had decided to stay halfway through the circuit in a village called Chugchilan.
To get to Chugchilan (3200m) we took a 4hr bus from Latacunga through Zumbahua where there was a Rodeo in progress. It was nice watching out of the window at the villagers and the incredible scenery.
Chugchilan is a small village with a central square and small clusters of houses. Many of the villages around this area are similar. People go about their business walking along the road or looking after their crops or animals. There are many steep slopes about but they seem to make the most of the land, with different crops everywhere. As you go past the kids they always wave and shout to you.
The next day we wanted to go to the Quilotoa crater (3850m) and we had hired a open back truck to take eight of us. There were six of us travelling together (Vanessa and Simon, Patrick and Caroline and us!). The Quilotoa crater is filled by a beautiful emarald lake. It is possible to walk down but it takes two hours minimum and we decided to do a mini walk down (only part way). It is also possible to walk around the crater (6hrs) but we again just walked part way around to see the views.
On our journey back the suspension of the truck broke, but the driver was not bothered and completed the journey slowly with the broken suspension !! In the truck we had to stand in the back and we felt like we had walked for hours !
After bargaining for our lunch at our hostel we took horses out in the afternoon. We rode up to a cheese factory ! on top of the hill (4000m) and we had amazing views over the valleys. The horses weren`t great and Nick`s would not let anyone else go in front. Monica tried to get hers in front but it ended in a race with both horses galloping along and it took a bit of persuading the horses to slow up !!
On the way down we went through a cloud forest before descending back to the hostal. The trekk had taken 5hrs and we were all very sore !!!!!
We had a choice of how to leave and complete the circuit, a) a bus at 4am or b) the milk delivery (and pick up) truck at 10am. Surprisingly we took option b) !!!
The milk truck turned up and was a normal open back combi truck (back being 2m x 1.5m approx). In the back was a big milk tank that took half of the room up. The six of us stood on the back of the milk truck with all our baggage, and three delivery guys and at this point we though the truck was full !!
The milk truck goes from village to village and picks up milk from the locals (from their cows) and also gives milk to others (from a different container). It also picks up people wanting to go in that direction. So here is the thing....... before long we had 15 people in the back. It was packed and we were like sardines. As we continued, more people would squeeze there way in by pushing themselves into any tiny spaces. Kids would crawl on between our legs !!!! We counted 23 people at one point !!! However the locals did not seem to mind the lack of space, if they could squeeze in they were happy ! It was soooooo uncomfortable and we were so squashed that Simon nearly fainted and we had to stop for some fresh air and a walk. It was an amazing journey, 14km which took 2hrs to complete. A journey NOT to be done too often !!!
The truck stopped at Sigchos and we had to get a bus from here to Latacunga which took us through the town of Saquisilli where they were preparing for their famous thursday market. In Latacunga we took another bus to Ambato and then we changed to yet another bus to Banos. A looonnnggg day !!
Hostal Mama Hilda - We bargained hard for a good price ($6 pp) as we were 6 persons. Nice comfy rooms, good food (and lots of it !) and shared bathroom. Lovely dogs !!!