Without rain, fields and hills would not be that green. And all that rain is what makes you appreciate sunshine even more. At least that’s what we keep saying to ourselves.
A nice surprise
Hot, unsafe and nothing remarkable. Those were some of the things we had heard about Guayaquil and they all turned out to be wrong… well, not all. It was bloody hot here.
Our hotel was right next to a chocolate factory, blessing us with a nice sweet aroma almost 24/7. Not sure if that was a good or a bad thing. Anyway, we got out of bed and armed with a litre of freshly pressed fruit juice, we walked up to Cerro Santa Ana to take in the views.
Afterwards, a traditional visit to the central market and a stroll through a park full of iguanas. Despite the heat, it made for a pleasant walk which we finished off with some of the best seafood we have had in a while.
On this side of the world, every backpacker worth its weight knows Baños, the mecca of adventure sports in South America. There is no shortage of zip lines and companies offering white water rafting, canyoning and everything in between. And there are party buses too, running all day, don’t ask.
We did not fancy any of that, Baños just happened to be on the way to our next stop. However, some people we met recommended cycling to a number of nearby waterfalls as a day trip, and so we did.
Now, there was a problem with this. Claims such as “the best waterfalls I have ever seen” flood travel blogs and other websites. More often than not, these claims set high expectations that are hard to match and so we set off without high hopes.
And that was a good thing. These waterfalls look good from afar, but it is when you get closer – if you can find the path that is – that really live up to their reputation.
Inevitably, the late afternoon also brought the rain, heavy rain. That, coupled with the fact that the way back was mostly uphill, made the decision to catch a ride on a truck a no brainer.
Back in Baños, a small stall provided us with the perfect ingredients for a healthy dinner: maracuya, strawberry and bananas. Smoothies, I think we have found a new passion.
The rain continued through to the next day. Not that we cared that much as we spent most of the morning on a bus, only setting foot outside to buy some snacks from one of the shops on the side of the road.
By the time we got to Latacunga it had already cleared out, a bit. We took that day to take a break and do nothing. Apart from thinking about the summer months in Spain and our return to London in September.
A rainy loop
In the morning, we hopped on another bus. Squeaky brakes, stupidly crazy driving and loud music… oddly, it all seems perfectly normal to us now. Looking out the window I could not help wishing we had our own car though, so that we could stop anywhere and enjoy the views. A couple of hours later, it was time to walk. Ahead of us, a few days hike called Quilotoa Loop.
Thankfully, our first hostel had given us detailed instructions on how to get to them. Countless paths made their way up the mountain and there are no signs to show the way. Following the instructions was quite fun, a nice addition to the views, like a treasure hunt:
Turn left here and head north down the road and pass the pine trees on your right. You will walk 250m after turning onto this road and you will see a very tall pine tree on your left with red flagging tape out 25 feet high on the tree that is upside down and marked “danger”.
No ATMs and no Wifi are to be found on the Loop. Not many gringos either. Just local farmers, animals and hills. For lunch, some crackers, peanuts and loads of fruit again.
Just under five hours of walking, mostly uphill, to reach Isinlivi, our first stop. The first day had been tough on our legs and generous with our eyes.
Our hostel delivered the promised healthy dinner our bodies needed and a wonderful outdoor seating area where I could write on the blog. Balu, their young San Bernard kept me company – and drank my coffee while I was not looking. Then he went off chasing hummingbirds. What a character.
After some reading and a pleasant chit-chat with other travellers, we hit our beds for a good night sleep.
Start the day off with a good breakfast
Granola – we got the recipe now! – jam and yoghurt – all homemade – together with local fruits. Breakfast does not get any better than this.
We started the second day at 9 am, with sunshine and sore legs. The good news were that, at least in the morning, it was all flat or downhill.
At the bottom of the hill, a river. There, we spent some time trying to figure out the best way to cross it, until we found a big trunk that was acting as a the perfect bridge.
The bad news? From there onwards, the trail led us up the hills, for about 7 km. At the top, a few local kids that had been spying on us as we slowly conquered the last few metres, promptly came asking for sweets – we were clearly not the first gringos they had seen walking past.
They were the only people we came across that day on the Loop. It is truly off the beaten track and that is a blessing.
That night I started reading a new book, “100 Years of Solitude” by Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Getting ready for the next country.
Some proper sunshine at last
Encouraged by the first proper sunny day we have had in a while, we set off after a huge breakfast where they had probably packed that day’s three meals in one. First thing on the trail – beautiful quinoa fields.
The Quilotoa Loop takes its name from a big volcano whose caldera has now turned into a huge green lake. At 3800 metres, it was a steep climb but worth all the sweat and tears of the previous days.
And so, within a few days we learnt that Ecuador is way more than the Galapagos. The coastline had suffered from a recent earthquake with devastating consequences but it does look like the country will bounce back soon. For there is a lot of life left everywhere.
Once again, we feel the call of the jungle – and we answer it.