Yesterday, after several nights in Quito, we finally got to explore the city and spent the morning wandering around the old town. It is a Unesco site and is nice enough but there is nothing to really keep you there for long. We headed up El Pancillo for the view of the city and to see the statue of the Virgen de Quito.
In the afternoon we headed to the bus terminal and took the bus to a town called Latacunga about 2 hours south on the Pan American highway past the avenue of the volcanos. Impressive as this sounds and probably is all we saw were clouds and rain!
For you weather fans this is kind of typical of what we have had in mainland Ecuador. Morning is usually nice but the afternoons are cloudy and if there is a cloud above your head is it always raining! Quite disappointing but then we are at the tail end of the rainy season!
On arriving in Latacunga we found our taxi couldn´t enter the town as all the roads were shut. It turned out that there was a big fiesta happening called Mama Negra. This was the college version which was still impressive with the main one happening in October or November I think. There was a huge procession with people dressed up and dancing and loads of music. They were also handing out drinks and we were offered some whiskey from a cup which about 1,000 people had probably already drank from. Still it was free so we drank it.
Today we were booked on a tour to a volcanic crater called Quilotoa. The tour took us through a few towns and some very impressive scenery. WE stopped in a small town called Zumbahua for its Saturday market. As with Otavalo and all the small towns in this country the local indigenous people were all dressed in their traditional clothing and not for the benefit of tourists (there doesn´t seem to be many of us around at the moment!).
After the town it wasn´t far past a canyon to the crater. From the ridge we walked town through the mud to the lake inside. Very scenic. Typically as it reached the afternoon the weather turned and the rain started which made the going more tricky in the sand and mud. At the bottom we decided to get the mules up. It takes half the time and saves a lot of energy. It was great fun particularly as Simone´s mule kept trying to walk of the edge of the path and commit them both to their doom!