Friday, March 29, 2019

Quilotoa Crater

The review for today is courtesy of John as Kimberly is not feeling well. Last night Kimberly came down with stomach problems (yes, we all know what that is code for) and chills. She wisely decided to forgo the day tour planned for the next day but gave me permission to head off on my own.

The tour started at 6:30am and we had a group of six: two from Israel, one each from Saudi Arabia, Australia and Argentina plus our guide Victor and the bus driver. Our destination was the Quilotoa Caldera. We headed south of Quito to a town called Saquisilla where we stopped to walk through the weekly Thursday market. Everything was up for sale including medicinal treatments such as cancer cures and some solution made from slugs that was being applied to someone’s leg.

Next we stopped at a traditional native Ecuadorian home- a one room mud walled hut with thatched roof where the family lives together sharing space with their guinea pigs which roam free but seem to know their place in the home. This family partly supports itself by allowing tourists to see how they live and they sell small items and charge a few dollars for photos.

Then it was on to Quilotoa which is an extinct volcano whose top collapsed into itself ages ago leaving a caldera that has filled with rain water into a large lake. Once off the Pan-American highway it’s an hour drive on a winding road that goes through the Andes before arriving at Quilotoa at an elevation of 3,800 metres.

The view from the rim of the volcano looking down to the lake in the caldera is amazing. It’s 500 metres down to the lake which can be accessed by a steep trail. I opted to walk 1/2 way down then back up which was quite exhausting but the views gave plenty of reasons for rest stops. Others went to the bottom and had a 1.5 hour hike back up or could choose to pay $10 to ride a donkey back to he rim. 

We were lucky to have good weather as the day before we were told that the visitors who came all the way from Quito saw nothing at all- the volcano was so shrouded in cloud that they couldn’t even see the lake.

We had a late lunch of typical Ecuadorian food - did you know they put popcorn in their soup- and then had a quick stop at a canyon created by water running off from the volcano. 

Our return trip to Quito did not go as planned as the bus started acting up and would not go more than 10-20 km/ hr and the driver kept having to stop to fiddle with the engine. Thankfully this happened on the main highway and not on the winding mountain road. Our guide got on the phone and arranged for some local cars to meet us further up the highway. My rescue car was driven by a local guide who had her 5 year old daughter with her. I sat in the front passenger seat while three more from our group crammed into the back seat. The little girl sat on the console between her mother and I. As with all the taxis I’ve been in since arriving, none of the seat belts worked in the car. But off we went into the now dark night for Quito. The weather turned nasty with thick fog and heavy rain. The defoggers in the car did not work so the windshield kept misting over. Our driver also had a penchant for not turning on her headlights. When I pointed this out she turned them on for awhile but turned them off again later. I did get back safely and am grateful that she took the time to help out our stranded group.

Kimberly was feeling better but had been in bed all day and eaten very little. Hopefully another nights rest will have her well enough to do some light touring.

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