Total distance travelled: 49,124.1 kilometres (30,511.86 miles)
With our initial plans to walk the Quilatoa Loop scuppered due to my illness, rather than consider our excursion to Latacunga a total write-off, we endeavoured to at the very least indulge in a day trip & take in both the Laguna de Quilatoa (considered the most beautiful part of the loop), as well as the nearby market town of Zumbahua.
We rugged up for the occasion, grabbed a breakfast of jam and bread to go, before making our way to the bus terminal to find ourselves a ride to the market.
With a whole lot of dumb luck, our timing was near perfect, as we found ourselves immediately on board a coach and on our way.
Our arrival into this mountain market town however, was not exactly how we’d imagined.
I won’t say we were unceremoniously dumped, however we were deposited up on a highway, some distance from the action, so this meant that we had little other option than to walk the remaining journey.
Given the size of the town however, and the elevated position we’d had during our approach, we had no difficulty locating the market proper and pretty quickly got to work getting a feel for the place.
Like Saquisili, the populace was clad in a mixture of traditional attire (felt hats were in abundance), however the scale of this affair paled in comparison to the aforementioned.
Instead this market was rather small, clinging to one small central plaza with a small amount of overflow down a closed to traffic, parallel street.
As such, it didn’t take us long to see the sights, including several folks relishing local delights, before we felt it time to journey onwards.
We’d read there was a bus service between the towns of Zumbahua and Quilatoa, however it’s possible that we’d read incorrectly.
All of our enquiries were met with direction to one of the many colectivos that sat in close proximity to the square, and it was eventually on one of these that we found ourselves.
Given the cool, overcast day that it was, sitting in the back of a utility vehicle was hardly what we considered ideal (think running nose in the cold wind), but at least it was a most scenic ride.
The valley through which we travelled looked incredible, gulches, ravines or small canyons running like scars across the terrain and after the occasional stop to let a few locals off, we found ourselves at the rather barren, desolate looking Quilatoa.
Thankfully, it wasn’t a long walk through town (to be honest, it’s hardly a town in any event) to the lip of the caldera, within which sits the stunning Laguna de Quilatoa.
A handful of other sightseers also stood at the lookout, snapping pics to their hearts content, so despite the brutally cold wind, we did the same!
Despite how I’d been feeling, we couldn’t come & not make the descent to the shore of the lake and so began what felt the most taxing day of the trip.
A combination of the altitude, my illness, but predominantly the horrendous track one must navigate, made the descent quite the chore.
The only problem to follow being that what goes down, must come up!
Sure, there were plenty of local entrepreneurs ready to take advantage of any weakness (they offered rides back out on the backs of their horses or mules), but we’re not quitters… at least not here in any case!
We soaked up the stunning blue of the lake a little more, then began the painful ascent to the top, a climb broken by many a stop to rest and catch our long lost breath.
But emerge at the top, we eventually did.
Weary, but nonetheless satisfied with our exploits, yet marvelling at the seemingly ageless women that make the climb up and down several times each day (those horses don’t lead themselves you know, although they probably could).
Our timing for lunch was near perfect, as just as we settled our bill, the afternoon bus that would take us all the way back to Latacunga (with a stop in Zumbahua) arrived, a journey we were by now very ready to make.
About an hour later, the bus finally pulled out of Zumbahua, and our long, but incredibly scenic day was over.
* Our morning bus from Latacunga to Zumbahua cost us $2.00 per person.
* A Taxi truck (Colectivo) from Zumbahua to Quilatoa was an additional $1.00 per person & took about 2o minutes.
* Despite our return bus taking us all the way from Quilatoa to Latacunga, it was still only $2.00 per person.