LATACUNGA (bag drop) – BUS TO SIGCHOS > HIKE TO ISINLIVI
Dave, Naomi, Clémence and I travelled from Secret Garden Cotopaxi and caught a bus to Latacunga, where we stayed a night, and left our bags, to begin the Quilatoa Loop.
The bus to Sigchos was off to a promising start, having made contact with another bus trying to reverse out of terminal #actionpacked
You could choose to take a bus or taxi direct to Quilatoa town and walk around the crater, but I wanted to earn the prize at the end… bc why start choosing the easy option now.
To get from Sigchos to Isinlivi is a few hours hiking… the only thing in Isinlivi is Llullu Llama (well loved by travellers doing the loop… and from what I’ve read, it’s half the reason people do the hike).
ISINLIVI TO CHUGCHILAN
The hike from Isinlivi to Chugchilan is nice, more uphills and more my style. Clémence and I arrive at Chugchilan by midday and are left questioning why so many people wrote it was 5-6 hours…
Dave and Naomi eventually arrive after taking a “detour”. We all head into town to get a drink at an establishment called “The Country Bar”. It’s closed, yet a man unlocks the door and invites us in. On the outside of the building, black and white spots… on the inside, empty and dark. An old lady at the bar wipes down a heavy layer of dust that’s been accumulating for an unknown amount of time. I have a glass of the top shelf stuff… boxed vino tinto.
Chugging and chilling in Chug-Chilan. Lol. Such a fun name for a town. Unrelated, am having hectic poncho withdrawals… considering purchasing one, however, my bag is at capacity, as of 3 hats and 4 jackets ago. Need to get robbed or leave some clothing behind.
CHUGCHILAN > QUILOTOA CRATER
Leaving Chugchilan, inbound for the final destination, the crown jewel, the Quilatoa Crater. A local warned against taking the route I’d chosen due to recent landslides… I chose to ignore this warning.
Walking the dusty trail, mouth is gritty, knees weak, face is dusty, alfresco bathroom breaks… did I mention dust? The Crater is in altitude, and the extra layers of clothes I was cursing bringing have now earned their place in my backpack. If the view of the Quilatoa Crater Lake doesn’t move you, the super strong winds will! Legit, cyclonic. Here’s a picture of me trying to imitate a wind swept superman/ Jesus.
Once at the top, you can take one of 2 paths to go around the crater and to the tiny town of Quilatoa. Of course Clémence and I chose the long way round, narrow paths on steep cliffs, running a third of the way, with total provisions of 2 manzanas…
I kept getting distracted, watching clouds cast shadows over the lake. What a sight. After a few hours and reaching the town of Quilatoa, we were fatigued and famished!
A bus back to Latacunga, for a night to de-dust, sleep and move forward to Banos. Have converted the dorm room into a clothes line.
At checkout, the hostess gives Naomi and I tres Ecuador bracelets… we give the third to Clémence, as Dave acquired (got given) one previously (what a Gringo! Jk). “Team Ecuador” was born. Wearing a bracket saying Ecuador, whilst travelling in Ecuador, is like getting a tattoo of your own name… It’s lame, but, it’s a gift from an old Latacungan señorita and a symbol of our travel friendship 👩👩👧👦 #lovethisforus
Notes about Quilatoa Loop
Things people won’t tell you is that you can do the loop in 2 days, by skipping Isinlivi and going straight to Chugchilàn from Sigchos. It’s 17kms from Sigchos to Chugchilan and makes for a better use of your time, instead of a few hours hiking one day and another few the next (the second day was not a 5-6 hour hike as advised… try 4 hours). Unless you’re super unfit, it’s completely doable. Llullu Llama is rated as the best hostel on the Quilatoa Loop and seemed a right of passage for the hike, but honestly, the rooms were average, there was no yoga teacher to conduct the classes advertised so heavily, the sauna was a warm room (you break more of a sweat hiking), the food was ok and the worst thing… Llullu Lama has no ponchos. Pro’s are the happy hour drinks, the view, Bollo (the giant German Shepherd) and the massive Jacuzzi… but…. if you’ve been to Secret Garden Cotopaxi, Llullu Llama will come in at a far second and may disappoint (in my opinion).