Quilotoa Loop ' Chichulan ' Banos

Quilotoa Travel Blog

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6 May 2008


Today I am staying in a very pleasant hostel in Banos called Plantas y Blanco.  We have a fun group of people here.  Sitting opposite me is a pretty German girl.  She is about to start a PhD in Biochemistry.  I think it would be nice to travel with her further south.  We have had a nice day today rafting for 2 hours down the river, Rio Negra.  It was a little painful on my shoulders  and we had to paddle hard.  On 2 May I left from Zimbahua from Quito with the intention of staying their the night and seeing the marked in the morning.  However, as usual, the travel times were much longer than I was told and I didn’t arrive until after dark.  It was long before a local guy approached offering me a ´ride´ to Quilotoa, a small village on the rim of the crater lake, a further 45 minutes up a broken dirt road.  Of course he overcharged me but I didn’t have much choice.  $25 USD goes a long way here.  I was too tired by this stage to argue the point with him too much.  It was also a quick lesson in how much misinformation people will give you just to extract a few extra dollars.  


Quilotoa is situated 4000m above sea level on the rim of a spectacular volcanic crater lake.  In the morning I set out alone to walk from Quilotoa to Chuchulan, about 12 miles down the valley from the rim of the crater.  It involved a bit of navigation skill, as the locals have destroyed all the signs, so that they can be hired as guides.  But all was ok and I was presented with some beautiful scenery as I trooped around the crater and then descended into the bowls of an impossibly steep canyon, with equally impossibly steep plantations cultivated by the native Indians. 


The indigenous folks were very brightly coloured woven clothing, usually with a child strapped to their back in a blanket.  All the women and men wear fedora hats.  They are truly remarkable in the distances they walk to and from the fields, or town or school.  It´s a very physical lifestyle cultivating this land.


The landscape here reminded me again of many parts of New Zealand, with many plantations of pinus radiata and Ecualyptus trees growing along the edge of the farm land.


As I descended into the immense canyon that cuts the valley in half, I had to negotiate some pretty precarious bridges, for example a 60ft deep gorge, with no more than a round wooden telegraph pole lain across to form a bridge.  An indigenous gentleman  wielding a machete  to cut the broom growing along the side of the track, nonchalantly bent down, plucked his 5 year old boy up, who was tailing behind, put him on his back, and then casually strolled across the 15 meter stretch across the telegraph pole in his gumboots.  I wasn’t so game or that keen to slip and die so shimmied across on my arse.


I was dead buggard by the time I arrived at Chichulan and was pleasantly greeted by the owners of the Black Sheep Inn.  The Balck Sheep is a wonderful retreat built by two Americans about 15 years ago with a strong ecological theme.  The place recycles nearly everything and has pleasant, naturally composting toilets.  I was grateful to relax here a couple of days with nice food and wine, a fire, and a view.   It´s not that warm at 4000m above sea level.


It was a long trip to Banos, over six bumpy hours, because the roads are poor and damaged by rain.  Today I threw myself off a bridge attached to a bungy, in the middle of my chest.  Quite an experience.  I wish I had my camera with me.  The first 1 second was a real rush as I plummeted head first towards the river, but then the bungee caught me and I somersaulted back right way up, before commencing the giant swing in the canyon backwards and forwards.

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photo by: xander_van_hoof