Trip Start Jan 31, 2005
45Trip End Mar 30, 2006
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Where I stayed
In other Insiliví excitement, we figured out after arriving that the only bus that regularly passes the town, other than on Thursdays, left at around 2:30am. So, our choices were to either take the red-eye bus in the wrong direction, or hike to our next destination. We chose to hike (thank god for our relatively small packs...) It ended up being a good decision, at least for the first four hours. We took a beautiful local trail through the mountains to a nearby river. There are trails all over the canyon, as the area has only had a road for five years or so. We followed the river for awhile, and realized that eventually we would have to climb back up the canyon. Given the base of the canyon is at around 2,500 meters, and we had to climb to about 3,200 meters, and we had already had all of our stuff on our backs for four hours, this was not the most enjoyable part of the trip (with the exception of a comical few minutes when an old indigenous man asked if Allison was for sale). But after a seemingly never-ending uphill road at the top of the canyon, we finally arrived in the nearly equally small, but slightly more developed, town of Chugchilan. Being tired, we decided to stay at the first place we encountered, despite the fact that we had originally ruled it out for being a little too up-market for us - The Black Sheep Inn
The day after we arrived at The Black Sheep Inn, we decided to let someone/something else do the work for us, and went horseback riding. It was a good trip... We spent a lot of time high up in the hills, which, before the clouds rolled in, gave us a lot of good views of the valley. We also ended up in a cloud forest for about an hour, which left us a little soaked, but was interesting - our horseback guide owned the forest we visited and gave us a good tour - saw lots of orchids (for real this time - over 80 species live in that small forest), a nice waterfall and learned the uses of lots of the plants. On the way back to Chugchilan, we had a very Latin American episode where two huge ditches had been dug across the road, from the inside cliff above us, to the outside cliff below us - purpose unclear. This was a bit of a problem for the horses, who despite our guide's commands to fly, weren't interested in crossing the ditches. Eventually they were convinced to go along the steep bottom cliffside at one ditch, and over the upper cliff at the second ditch, and we made it home.
The next day we left The Black Sheep Inn and continued along the Quitoloa Loop to the village of Quilotoa and neighboring volcanic crater. Due to the limited bus options that day, we decided to rent a pick-up truck and driver with three other Americans (a guy in the Peace Corps in Ecuador and his parents), who had agreed to drive us to the crater, wait while we walk around, and then take us to the next village of any size so that we could get reliable transportation out of the Quilotoa Loop
The crater was similar to the one we saw near Otavalo, although the water is bright green, at least when the sun shines on it. We walked around the crater rim for awhile, during which time our driver was supposed to be fixing the tire, and then walked back to the parking lot so we could move on to the next town. Not entirely surprisingly, our driver had not started working on the tire yet, so we sat around and waited while he changed it out. After he finished he told us that he needed to go put more air in the spare and would be back in five minutes. Five minutes ended up turning into an hour and a half, which was a little disconcerting considering he had all of our backpacks. The two of us and the Peace Corps volunteer had to reassure his parents that we would see our backpacks again, would get to the next town and that we all had to keep in mind that our five minute paradigm is somewhat different than the Latin American five minute paradigm. The driver finally got back and we found out he had gone all the way to the town we were headed to anyway! 25 minutes there, 25 minutes back, and another 40 minutes spent doing who knows what. It turns out that there was a huge fiesta going on in the town he went to and he claims he had a hard time finding anybody to help him with the air. We figure he probably enjoyed the fiesta for awhile, too...
After bidding goodbye to our driver, who somehow thought it justified to ask for more money on account of the tire problem (?!?), we took off on a bus back to the Panamericana, after which we headed to the town of Baños, which is popular with Ecuadorean and international tourists alike due to its thermal baths, nearby waterfalls and access to the jungle