Today’s destination, Quilotoa, is about 290 km away. “The luminous turquoise water of volcanic crater lake ‘Laguna Quilotoa’ is one Ecuador’s most awe-inspiring sight.” I have read a few days ago in the travel guide. OK, so let’s go there. But what I went through on the way there is less awe-inspiring.
I leave the warmer Canoa and enjoyed the ride on winding roads through the flat area. There are only a few vehicles on the roads. It is a pleasure to drive.
It is warm, I stowed my warm inlays in the bag. Approximately 80km from Quilotoa it starts to rain. That does not matter, it is still warm. Maybe it stops soon again. Just in my dreams. It is going up, 500m, 700m, 1,000m. The rain gets stronger, the mountains become higher, it gets colder. If it remains like it is, I can stand it. The water is getting through my jacket and trousers, the cold water is running into my shoes. 2,000m, 2,500m. It gets very cold now. I’m already wet through and through. I passed the point of no return. Slipping into the waterproof clothes would not help anymore. Still 50km from the destination. I’m freezing. 3.000m. Damn, how high will it go? I’m shaking like hell. The ice-cold water runs back out of my shoes, my fingers are numb. The heating-grips show no effect. 3,500m. Finally over 4,000m the end is found. It is still about 25km to Quilotoa. I keep my eyes open for accommodation. I do not care if I get to Quilotoa. I’m just looking for a “Hostal” sign. No signs. Finally I reach Quilotoa. I stop at the first Hostal I see. 25S the night, including food. If she would have said 100$, I would have taken the room.
I had to enter my data in the guestbook. I hardly can hold the pen, because I shiver that much. Writing is almost impossible. My writing is like that of a child, which is holding a pen for the first time. I cannot wait to get under the hot shower. That helps a little bit to warm the body. Then I sit close to the stove, I’m still trembling. It takes a while until the heat creeps through the bones.
For me it is impossible to leave tomorrow. My clothes won’t dry until tomorrow. I would die driving in the cold weather. So I stay for unplanned 2 nights up here. Later that afternoon there arrive a few other guests.
Here I sit under two thick blankets, in my jacket and hat in my bed and write on my blog, 3.900m above sea level. My breath condenses.
Up here no cock crows in the morning, but it is the dog of the house, which wakes the guests before 6am with loud barking.
I walk to the nearby crater. The guide was not lying. The crater and the view of the area are a wonderful sight. I walk along the crater rim a little bit. But here it comes again, the raging palpitations. Maybe I got accustomed walking around at 3,000m, but not at 4,000. I discard to walk down to Crater Lake.
The small village is here is at the beginning of a change process. From farmers and huts towards a tourist village. A few of the hostels are still fairly simple small huts. However, there are already a few newer larger ones. The main square is new; there is such a thing as a cultural center and market, where locals sell clothes. The locals are keeping the area clean. Waste is collected. Down to the Crater Lake there is a safe walkway in work. It will be interesting to come back in 10 to 15 years to see how things developed.
My mood today is not the best. But whom should I blame other than me. I should have dressed properly.
In the evening a tour group of 15 people with Germans, one Swiss and 2 Austrians from Gloggnitz rush in. It is a bit strange to talk in German dialect again. There are also arriving a few backpackers. I was invited to join the German talking group, but I preferred to stay with “my” people.
The road from Quilotoa to Latacunga was so far definitely one of the highlights on this trip. For a while you stay in a height between 3,500 and 4,000m above sea level. In the far distance the Cotopaxi rises majestically into the sky. Cotopaxi, with about 6,000m is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. It is not possible to describe in words what nature offers here.
To my travel companions, who are behind me: Visit Quilotoa and take the route towards Latacunga, you will not regret it.
I’m passing Baños. Baños is known for its hot springs. As I read on the blog of Lauren and Adrian later, the volcano there erupted two days ago. The volcano is still spewing ash, which is also in the air. On the streets, people are cleaning up.
Slowly I head back to the lowlands of the country. Macas is the destination for today. The landscape changes again. It gets green again. Forest is the dominant vegetation. During a brief stop in between I meet two Austrians again, this time from Mariazell. I have to pose for a picture, including motorcycle and I was invited to visit them back home. They have a Hotel back home. That will probably take some time.
I was freezing in the mooring when I left Quilotoa. A few hours later I’m sweating in shorts walking through Macas.
My last day in Ecuador. Again I drive on one of those mountain roads where the slopes are steep. The road is being renovated. Most part of it is already in excellent condition. Nevertheless, at some places I don’t feel that well.
I spend the last night in Ecuador in Santa Isabel. Santa Isabel is way bigger than it has been mapped so far. It took a while and a lot of people I asked until I found the hotel. It is a bit off the center in the hills, but the view is terrific.
Ecuador was a real highlight. I was surprised by the diversity of culture and people, the landscape and the climate. From the cool highlands of Quito through the foggy forest down to the warm coast, back up to the cold mountains where I almost was brought to my limits and further east into the jungle region.
Thank you for reading, Juergen.