Finding real rewards – a Quilotoa Loop trek experience (Part One)

One of the most famous destinations in Ecuador, yet not that crowded is the Quilotoa Lagoon. Most travelers like to go there straight and comfortably in a bus or car and take some pictures, but we decided to take a longer way to reach it. Today I want to start describing a challenging experience of a multiple day trekking. Do not take it wrong, the challenge with this type of activities is what is giving you happiness and all the rewards in the end, such like reaching and finally being able to see the majestic Quilotoa Lagoon.
One well know answer to the question “Why do we travel?” is to being able to escape our daily problems, breaking up with the routine or getting some fresh air after being hit with some hard news. Well, I just wanted to escape and the opportunity appeared at the right time. I was already aware at the very start that it was going to be tough, I didn’t had much experience but my motivation was at its fullest. My first concerns were popular questions like: Do I need a guide? What if I get lost? What are the physical requirements I need? All these questions remained without an answer, before the hike started. It was time for an adventure, for the unexpected and I was ready to allow myself enjoy the experience without spoilers.

Latacunga

Day 1:  Isinlivi
Our journey started in Latacunga, the capital city of the Cotopaxi province. I arrived early in the morning. The hike was not going to start just yet, but two members of the SOLEQ team were accompanying me, Ayke and Jenny. They already spent the night before at a nice old hacienda in Latacunga. I took advantage of the city and searched for the final items I missed to take before starting the adventure. All set up we enjoyed a warm and friendly breakfast at a local restaurant. The people from the Cotopaxi area are very nice and offer one the best services in Ecuador. For less than three dollars we charged up in calories and protein. Normally the buses to Isinlivi, our next stop, takes off at Latacunga main station. But it was Thursday and this a special day in the region for centuries. On this day the Saquisili market is taking place. It is the second famous market in Ecuador (right after the Otavalo market) and is called “Plaza de Ponchos”. It’s visited by fewer people because, as I said, it only happens on Thursdays. In Latacunga we took the first taxi that appeared, in order to reach the Saquisili market outside the city. The driver didn’t know where the buses are going to take off. He started to make some calls and finally he got the information that the bus stop was at the fish market. Ayke didn’t believed him at first, because if you traveled in Ecuador for a good amount of time, it is not good to trust everyone but it is also bad not to trust anyone. To avoid this, the best option is to ask for the required information at a hotel reception or in a tourist information.

Isinlivi

By the time we arrived at the fish market the bus was ready to depart. Sadly we couldn’t see the market, because we got onto the bus right away. The drive was very nice, the paths we super narrow, engulfed by mist and we were going in zigzags. Normally I would feel unsafe, but somehow everyone looked so calm that it seemed like it was an everyday thing for the habitants of the mountains, such as going to the bathroom. That’s why I felt very calm, too. But I was uncertain where I had to get off, so I asked more than one passenger on the bus to tell me when we arrive in Isinlivi.
Isinlivi is a little town and a meeting point on the Quilotoa Loop. We were staying at Llullu LLama hostel, which is an ecological hostel with a beautiful view onto the Andes and yes, they even have a friendly Llama as their mascot. The place is run by foreigners and travelers, so that one Swiss guy and one French girl helped us out with the check in. They spoke fluent English, but of course could also help travelers in French and German.

Llama

We met a ton of people from all over the world – everyone enjoying life and some escaping the routine like me. We played card games to get to know each other and also enjoyed a warm bath in the Jacuzzi of the hostel. They taught us their card games and we showed them ours – this cultural exchange in the middle of the Andes was such a wonderful experience. Another highlight of the evening was the dinner. Spread among two big dining tables with people from more than twenty different countries we laughed, shared stories and ate delicious food till everyone was full. I spoke with an elder traveler from England and told her about my dream of becoming a scientist. I was really surprised to hear that she was a retired scientist herself. After this wonderful dinner, yoga was promised for the morning.

Esteban Almeida D.

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