Trekking the Quilotoa loop
Arguments during navigation are the norm for Becky and I. Often if I am driving and Becky has to navigate, tempers will fray and there will be heated words. I’ll openly admit I don’t have any patience. … but Becky isn’t the greatest map reader!!
So navigating our way way through the Ecuadorean mountains for a 3 day hike to get to the prize of the Quilotoa Lake was always going to have it’s flash points! To be fair it wasn’t the most testing of hikes with regard to finding our way, but it certainly was a decent physical test, especially for Rico and T. Thankfully arguments were kept to a minimum.
We weren’t carrying our full packs, but still had a sizeable amount with us. This hike was a hidden gem, and we only met a handful of other trekkers along the way, inevitably bumping into them at various stages along the route.
Around 12kms a day were covered but with that came some testing uphill climbs including 1000M to conquer on Day 2. The landscape was exquisite and serene passing through some tiny villages where we were greeted by locals and stray dogs. Some children from the local school (a total of 25 students) were performing for the school staff (a total of 2) so we stopped to watch – much to their coyness. Some pupils on stage were singing and had some dancers beside them. Pretend speakers and drums were made out of boxes – Quilotoa certainly had talent!
On our final day we set off early as I wanted to finish our trek in time to try and catch Arsenal’s semi final clash with Valencia in the Europa League. About an hour in, we picked up an entourage of 4 dogs. This number soon swelled to 10 and the kids were loving it – giving names to all of them. A few dogs dropped off along the way, but 3 faithfully stuck with us. Finally after 3 days of trekking we made it to the amazing Quilotoa lake, and it lived up to the photos. No sooner had we got up there, the weather changed and the lake was shrouded in clouds and mist – our final push was supposed to be easy but the route was deceptive and there was a lot more uphill than anticipated. What didn’t help were the conditions and the fact I had to keep stopping to try to find out the football score as we’d missed the start of the game.
We eventually got to Quilotoa with our 3 loyal dogs that had accompanied us for about 10 km and the first point of call was to buy sausages and bread for them. We wondered around in the evening mist trying to find somewhere to rest our tired legs for the night. Rico refused to leave one dog, and sat outside our hostel crying and hugging the sodden canine. I’ve never known a child so in love with dogs – he cannot pass by any dog we encounter without petting it – and there are thousands of strays in South America! It’s such a shame for Rico that out of all the dogs in the world, the one we picked from the animal rescue in South Africa isn’t the most lovable!
The following day, we decided to return to the town where the rest of our bags were, and rather than stay the night, had a quick turn around to our next destination – the mountainous town of Banos. It was a quirky town, known mainly for its surrounds where all manner of adventure sports took place. Despite having sun on our first day, the remaining few days were miserable, and my plan to cycle 70km to the gateway to the amazon seemed to be thwarted. One morning I bit the bullet and made a dash for it, and despite getting soaked to the bone it was worth it to be on two wheels again.
Cuenca – Home comforts
After Ecuador the upcoming travel was going to be fast through Peru and Boliva, so our next stop was a chance to bed down, enjoy some home comforts and catch up with the usual things
Cuenca – a charming old town with two rivers flowing through the middle of it- was to be our home for a week. Our apartment was perfect for us; furnished with simple luxuries that in our previous life were the norm and taken for granted; a warm shower, a washing machine, Netflix and an oven-so Tiana could finally fulfil her baking desires! The week was chilled; our only trips out were to the local fresh food market.
Friends we’d made in Hoi An, Vietnam, who had two girls similar ages to Rico and T came to visit us. They had been working on a farm an hour away from Cuenca for a ‘Workaway’ project. War stories were swapped of our respective battles of travelling and homeschooling, and we discussed future plans and aspirations – real soul food. With people to cater for, Becky reverted to type and finally rekindled her culinary prowess that she effortless did when in Cape Town. A massive roast including the worlds biggest Yorkshire pudding was whipped up effortlessly.
Guayaquil was our starting point for our mammoth 28 hour bus journey to Lima in Peru. Becky had paid a little extra for ‘ VIP’ seats which meant we sat downstairs on the double decker coach where there were less people than upstairs. The set up was quite impressive – wide super comfy chairs with lots of leg room and proper angle of inclination opposed to the 5 degrees you get on a plane which rarely moves your head.
The border crossing into Peru was quite disturbing, not for the queues or the heat, but the sight of the poor Venezuelan families camped around the buildings. The stench of urine, the flies, their makeshift beds on pieces of cardboard, queues to get medical aid from the UNICEF tent – it was very disturbing. People fleeing their corrupt country with a worthless currency due to mismanagement and greed from it’s government.
A country that was rich in oil, but where it’s people cant access fuel and that in turn causes farmers to leave their fields to fall fallow as they cant transport their goods. A country where people have no food, jobs, or access to medicine . Rico and Tiana felt very uneasy but they understood the plight of these families and the decisions the parents had to make on behalf of their children in order to have a chance of survival. It was very sobering and we entered Peru with heavy hearts