We are now in Ecuador (our third country of the trip)! After whizzing round the sites of Quito which we weren’t too impressed with (and meeting an Aussie girl who had her bag nicked while she was wiping human excrement off herself!), we headed to the Quilotoa Loop.
The loop is a group of highland villages around Lake Quilotoa, a huge crater lake. After a bumpy and winding (but scenic) four-hour bus journey (which only covered 88 km!) we arrived in the small village of Chugchilan.
The next day we saddled up and went riding with a local guide (who was only seventeen and had been guiding for four years!) and two Americans. My horse was clearly the leader as he always made sure he was at the front of pack, but he didn’t seem to respond to my calls for him to gallop! We rode across beautiful countryside, through fields, traditional villages and down dirt tracks.
The highlight though was the view of the local cloud forest, where the clouds literally sat amongst the mountains.
Finally, we stopped at local cheese cooperative and purchased some (gringo priced) ‘mozzarella’, something that tasted a bit like a strong cheddar and some very fresh butter.
Once we got back to our hostel we feasted on our bounty alongside bread, crisps and peanut butter (obviously the Yanks supplied this!).
The following day we took a pick-up truck (sitting on the roof as the locals do!) to Lake Quilotoa. We hiked around the edge of the huge turquoise lake and watched local women herd sheep up to the grassy interior of the crater.
We took the long route back to Chugchilan, a five hour hike from the arid landscape around the lake down to the lush valley below and then across the gorge below the village. We finally arrived back at our ‘log cabin’ complete with our own fireplace! Nice and toasty.