The Quilotoa Loop is a route connecting a number of tiny rural villages in an area of outstanding natural beauty, West of Latacunga, and incorporates several vast valleys and the breathtaking Laguna Quilotoa: a massive volcanic crater lake.We decided to leave our big rucksacks behind at the hostel in Latacunga and head out with just our daypacks for what was to become a four-day hike around the loop.First we took a bus to the tiny village of Insilivi, stopping on route to visit the famous Thursday market in the town of Saquisili.The market was a cacophony of colours and sounds, brimming with locals rushing around buying their weekly bits and pieces, and a sprinkling of tourists busy snapping away with cameras to record the peculiarities of the place.The clothes stalls were full of the vibrant hues of alpaca wool blankets, scarves, hats and gloves typical of this part of South America. This was the first time we'd seen this kind of stuff for sale, and by the time we left we had kitted ourselves out with cold weather gear and bought ourselves a gorgeous blanket... which we now have to carry with us for the rest of the trip!
Our first night on the loop was in a tiny village called Insilivi in a fantastic hostel called the Llullu Llama; a warm and cosy place with a wood fire in the lounge and a resident llama in the garden.We were staying with a Swiss couple called Jan and Maya, who were planning to do the same trek as us over the next few days, and we spent the evening looking through their amazing photos of Bhutan - we are definitely going to visit this place when we go through Asia.The next day we trekked for about 6 hours through a spectacular valley to reach the town of Chugchilan.There we were told that there was going to be a fiesta in the town the next night, and in the evening some local kids came by to enlist our help in practising a traditional maypole dance.The next day we spent trekking up to a local cheese factory, where we bought some tasty Emmental for lunch.By this time our numbers had increased to six, as a couple called Andrew and Beatrice (English and French) had joined us, and in the evening we went out to sample the local Ecuadorian boozer and watch the fiesta activities, which included an organised game of girls football in the town square, weirdly.
On the last day Sarah and I trekked alone to the Quilotoa crater lake, which was an epic six hour trek mostly uphill (sensible people did the loop the other way!).The lake is massive and sits in what was the magma chamber of the volcano, which collapsed about 800 hundred years ago, the volcano losing most of its cone in the process.It was an incredible sight, particularly for us as we had unwittingly taken the (longer) scenic route around the inside of the crater to reach the town on the other side.We were pretty exhausted by the end of it and slept for a good 10 hours, before heading back to Latacunga and on to the town of Baños the next day.