A Demanding Hike Around Lake Quilotoa

I read somewhere that the hike around the rim of Lake Quilotoa was easy. Well let me tell you it is not!

Judy and I took a bus from the Posada de Tigua to the indigenous town of Zumbahua where we hired a driver to take us onward to the crater lake of Quilotoa. There the fun began.

Written by Andrew Howe 

The good news is that we took the anti-clockwise route around the crater rim, tackling the highest peaks first. The path starts out flat and easy, affording spectacular views of the emerald waters that the locals claim are bottomless. The trail then ascends rapidly.

Altitude was not a problem (even though the path ascends to 3,800 meters above sea level) but the trail is frequently narrow, occasionally very exposed – with sharp drop offs – and the soil sandy and friable. Gusting, shifting winds compounded our feeling of vulnerability – visions of being swept over the rim into the crater! We descended some of the steeper slopes on our bottoms, ripping the seat of my trousers in the process.

The hike took us six hours – not bad going considering I’m well into my sixth decade. We glimpsed farmers working in the valleys and encountered a few indigenous folk on the trail – one man had a mattress strapped to his back as he ambled along with his wife following behind! Along the way red, blue, yellow, purple and orange páramo flowers formed a colouful and showy mosaic.

Toward the end of the hike a young man on a horse, Agustín, paused to ask if we needed transport from Quilotoa. After a very welcome beer in a village store we piled into a camioneta with Agustín at the wheel, a friend at his side and a motley crew of villagers in the back.

After stalling the engine a couple of times and lurching down the road in fits and starts (much to the amusement of passing friends who nudged each other and pointed) it transpired that our driver was very much a learner which did not inspire confidence as we had some hairy twists and turns in the mountain road to negotiate. When we arrived at Zumbahua Agustín’s pal took over the driving duties and Judy and I made it back to the Posada de Tigua in one piece, and with 15 minutes to spare before a delicious dinner was served.

It was an unforgettable day but beware the plethora of confusing information about the hike around the rim of Quilotoa. It is not easy. Indeed a rusty sign posted at the end of the trail announces that the hike is difficult and should be undertaken with a guide and a minimum of four people. I shall do better research in the future.

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