One wild ride!!!

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
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Trip End Apr 08, 2008


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Thursday, March 27, 2008

The bus ride to get here - to Chugchilan, Ecuador - was the craziest bus ride I've ever taken.  But we made it...to this very beautiful place high up in the Andes...to this lovely hostel that treats you like family in this exceedingly tiny little town...so it was all worth it.  
 
Yesterday we made our way from Banos over to Latacunga.  We heard it was sort of a nasty city (and it sort of is), but it meets our needs perfectly....we find a great hostel right next to the bus terminal - safe and clean - so that we can get up early in the morning to go to the market in Saquisili.  I really want to do the Quilotoa loop....it 's a circular road - and in many places a non-road -  thru the Andes and it starts in Latacunga.  The loop culminates with this crater lake - Quilotoa - and some gorgeous views.  Saquisili is on the loop but we hear the northern part of the loop has terrible roads so after we go to the market, we come back to Latacunga to go the other way around.  And that's where we encounter the TRULY scary roads.
 
But first a bit about Saquisili.  Great market.  We go to the animal market first.  Not the place for anyone even contemplating the concept of animal rights.  Squealing (actually shrieking-in-terror) pigs, bleating sheep, llamas, chickens, horses, and cows.  And the smaller market of guinea pigs, turkeys, rabbits.    Buying, selling, trading...quite a scene.  And then there is the rest of the market.  Lots of food frying up - chicharron is big here (deep fried pig)...  we've got the tray of pig heads all cooked up for your purchase, actually all pig parts are available...then there's all sorts of other market fare.  You can get iron front doors, ovens, clothing, shoes, dyes, rubber tire bowls....and tons of hand made items...A great market. 
 
So I get lots of photos to share, eat a little cornbread and some Nescafe (the favorite of South America), and then it's back to Latacunga and off to Chugchilan to do the loop.  And it's all good until we get about 2 hours into it, to Zumbuara.  Theoretically there's only about 23 km to go - this part ends up taking us another 2 hours.  And it's hair-raising.  The paved road ends, we're driving in this bus on soft sand.  But it's been washed out by the heavy rains they've had lately...and it's got gullys running lengthwise in the road as well perpendicular to the road.  Deep places where the road simply does not occur.  But what really puts the thrill in the ride is looking over the edge to steep, maybe 100m drops.  Watching the bus get the front wheels around the bend and waiting for the back wheel to drop off into the gully carrying the rest of the bus with it.  I've been on some treacherous roads before but never this bad.  I usually put a lot of faith in the driver and then just sit back to enjoy the ride.  But this time, even though the driver is doing fine and is being careful - he really has no choice - I'm feeling pretty edgy...I even have thoughts about just getting out and walking back to where the good road ended.  Of course this is totally illogical so I just sit tight and listen to the guy behind me tell me about how pelligroso the road is.  I try to lean in to the bank side of the bus...trying to do whatever I can to keep us from going over the edge.  And the bus rocks in and out of gullys...it's a crazy ride.  But I don't get out, I send the driver all sorts of positive vehicular energy, and we finally arrive at Chugchilan.  Everybody is relieved.  And the woman who runs the hostel welcomes us...and the place is beautiful.  Steep mountains, farmland right to the tops of those steep slopes and a canyon running down the middle.  It's been a long wild trip here but I'm so glad I didn't hop off the bus...I'd still be wandering down the road in the rain with my malletta in tow. 
 
Just finished a great dinner - potato soup, creamy pasta, chicken, and sweet figs with cheese - with lovely people. ..this place costs $10 pp/night and believe it or not, it includes breakfast and dinner.  This French guy that was on the bus is hell bent on getting a small truck - a camionetta_ to drive us back to Quilotoa so that we can hike right on back here tomorrow.  Actually that's what I came here to do ..until that scary bus ride.  It's about a 7 hr hike and supposed to be beautiful..the finest hike in Ecuador.  And this group of people seems like they'd be fun to do it with.  So we sign on.  Back along the same road in the AM to enjoy the crater and the hike.  The ride tomorrow can't be half as bad as it was in the truck, right? 
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