Hiking the Quilotoa Loop – finding your freedom

This walk is just breathtaking and I adored every step of it over the three days. Perhaps two of my favourite elements is that it costs nothing and you can navigate it all yourself. Complete freedom!

Sadly food poisoning had taken it’s toll the day before so… a day later than planned and somehow a few hours late for the bus to Sigchos, we exploited every second to get us to the station on time. Finally departing Latacunga, I sank into my seat, watching our surroundings morph from city to open terrain as we hurtled through dirt roads.

The views were a flavour of the days to come. Our departure town, Sigchos, was a fairly nondescript place and so we trundled straight down the hill that would take us onto Isinlivi and guide us through the beauty of the Quilotoa loop.

I have come to learn the hard way that the climate and forecast in Ecuador is difficult to rely upon. It messes with the emotions, toys with your expectations and just when you think you know it well enough, it screws with you all over again. Having left town in scorching sun, we arrived at Isinlivi just after 3pm, desperately craving warmth and shelter, eventually seeking solace in our hostel blankets and the fireplace that would be lit a few hours later. Brrr! We had also left Latacunga with just our day bags so inefficient packing would have been unforgivable. Fortunately each hostel on the route included the cost of dinner and breakfast so we had only had to prepare for snacks and layers to keep any tantrums at bay.

Each day became progressively pictueresque with jaw-dropping horizons – the sun greeting us in the morning whilst the clouds closed in on us by lunchtime. A lot of the path was marked by red splotches on rocks and the occasional lone local was also able to help direct us. This was especially useful as the weather had caused blockages on the paths and no blog was able to provide live updates! For the most part we used Along Dusty Roads – their attention to detail is superb and even though we couldn’t follow it all, it was much more useful than the lines on paper the hostels provided. A valuable lesson, do your research and download what you can whilst you have wifi!

On the final incline, the crater lake gradually poked through the clouds, welcoming us into its pits with its electric blue depths and staggered rocky walls. It was momentous. So much so that I had to photograph its every angle despite the looming rain clouds threatening to empty themselves on my head like the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2015. Stumbling around the top of the crater we finally traipsed into Quiltotoa town, we had made it. It had been amazing. Arriving on a bank holiday weekend however, we hadn’t realised that the real challenge – the one of finding accommodation – had only just begun.

Seconds to make count

Headphones and a good playlist can make anything possible.

Be observant of your surroundings and respect nature!

There’s always room in your bag for a game or a book..

Hostels and the route

Location: Latacunga

Hostel: Hostal Sendero de Volcanes, Duration: 2 nights + baggage storage.

Location: Isinlivi

Hostel: Taita Cristobal, Duration: 1 night

Location: ChugchilΓ‘n

Hostel: El Vaquero, Duration: 1 night

Location: Quilotoa

Hostel: Arco Iris, Duration: 1 night

Tips for Travellers

  • Leave your large bag in a hostel in Latacunga, most charge around $1 a day for storage.
  • Take water to last you the first day and snacks for the entire duration.
  • Read up on the route and make the pages available offline.
  • Speak to locals and make sure you know the route is accessible and safe.
  • You arrive early into each town so have some form of entertainment with you like good company, a pack of cards, headphones or a book.
  • In case you do get caught in the rain, a dry bag or waterproof cover for your backpack can prove invaluable.

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