Saturday, 12 September 2015



30/07 - 31/07


We were up bright and early in order to catch the first Trole of the day at 6am, so that we would make it to the Community Hostel by the 06:45 - the starting time of our Quilotoa Tour. Quilotoa is a volcano that last erupted about 800 years ago but the rim collapsed and as water collected in the closed up crater, a beautiful crater lake was formed. 

We arrived at the hostel with time to spare,  luckily the roads were quiet at that time in the morning.
Upon arrival we signed in,  paid and we then enjoyed our first included meal of the day - Desayuno (breakfast). 

A traditional Ecuadorian breakfast - a fried egg on a dense, fried potato and onion base and of course a cup of tea/coffee. 

During our meal, we got the opportunity to meet some of the people on our tour group as well as prepare for the tough walk into and out of the crater. 

Then, we all piled into the minibus, our transportation vehicle for the day. It was about a two hour drive to our first stop. This time was used to chat, nap and share travel stories. Our guide also gave us some information about Quito, the region and the surrounding volcanoes in the area (Volcano Alley). 

Our first stop was suppose to be a traditional market but because traffic was quite heavy, we were running late and thus had to skip it. We were a little upset but we were going to the Otavalo market that Saturday so we would get our fill of Market goodies there. 
Thus,  we went straight to Milton's House,where we would get to meet Milton, a local Tigua painter. Tigua is a special style of oil painting on sheepskin canvases that brightly depicts typical Andean life. But more excitingly we would be able to paint our own artistic pieces! 

Our guide (red jacket) interpreting the explanation of the painting process. 

We were each given our own sheepskin canvases with a template of Cotopaxi already painted on for us. We obviously needed a little guidance to begin with. 

Some finished pieces. They were almost cartoonish with the bright colours and animated animals. 

Milton, the master himself, assisting

Roxy working on the green grass surrounding her volcano. 

Future artists diligently at work

We both have little to no artistic ability, so this task was a rather challenging one. Joy was just copying what ever Milton's protege was telling her to do whilst Milton was basically taking over Roxy's piece. Wow,  if we could just get through this daunting feat, the crater hike will be a breeze! 

Joy and her instructor, Milton jnr. To sum up Joy's artwork - good from far but far from good! 

Roxy and Milton (what was supposed to be a llama turned into what looked like a fat, orange sheep)

After we had compared our creations and washed our hands from the art (literally and figuratively!) it was back into the minibus for another hour´s drive to Quilotoa Lake. 

It was quite a windy road to our destination and as always our driver did not fear taking the sharp corners at crazy speeds. But we did make it there alive and as we stepped out of the metal death trap, we felt a bitterly cold wind hit our exposed faces. No... Why can't these cool places be at low altitude where there is sunshine! 
We quickly dashed into the restaurant to hide from the elements and get some lunch. Our lunch started off with a quinoa soup and then a classic chicken, rice and beans main. The juice was something a little different - tree tomato. Joy opted for tea instead but did have a taste.  It wasn't too bad, definitely not a favourite though! 

It was then time to mentally prepare to go outside. Okay, let's do this thing! 

The incredible aquamarine crater lake was a sight that took our breaths away! The intense colour is due to all the dissolved minerals in the water. 

It was so cold that we did not want even a piece of our bodies to be exposed - buff masks to the rescue! 

Braving the cold for the photo op. 

After a few photies from the viewing point, it was then time to start our descent into the crater. We started at 3900m above sea level and had to descend 280m to the lake below.

James (a scientist from London) and Roxy ready to go. 

As we begun the walk down, we passed people huffing and puffing as they climbed up towards the end. Eek... That was going to be us soon. 

It would take us about 30mins to get down to the lake and about two hours to climb back up again (the altitude makes it a lot more difficult). We really wanted to go kayaking on the lake so we had to hurry down so that we would have enough time to do it and not keep our group waiting. 

Although the vertical descend was not severe, the path was quite steep,  windy and extremely dusty. The fine, grey powder like sand covered our shoes and pants as we scampered down the hill.

How is this pretty plant even surviving in this dry cement-like ground? 

Stunning views of the crater lake along the way down:

Down the dusty path, hand in hand! 

We reached the bottom and rushed towards the water's edge to find our kayaks.

Instead of walking back up to the top, some people take the option of paying to ride a mule up. This would not be us... We love walking! 

People hanging out in a volcano crater. 

We quickly found the kayaks, gave the man the money, $3 per person, hopped in and started to paddle. It was quite freezing as the wind was gliding along the surface of the water. To add to it, because we had rushed into the kayaks, we did not plan our outfits too well and now icy water was flowing down our arms and soaking through our jacket sleeves.

James caught up to us and joined us on the water. 

Selfies on the water

Our guide had told us that as this was an active volcano,  you could see bubbles rising through the water from the centre of the crater. This sounded amazing so we made a mission to the middle! We only had 20mins so we had to hurry. Luckily, we had had a bit of practice and once we found our rhythm,  we were on the fast track to the middle.

In the centre

Unfortunately, because of the strong wind, the water was too rough and marred by waves and thus we couldn't see any bubbles. 

Oh well,  back to the shore we go.

As we were heading back, we noticed that James who was meant to have followed us to the centre but reached us in time,  was getting further and further away from us and the shore. We tried to shout to him to come back with us as our time was up but he seemed to be just going around in circles. Roxy tried to verbally give some practical paddling advice but the wind was taking him and it didn't seem to be helping. Thus, we realised we needed to turn back around and give him some assistance. He was alone in his boat and the kayak renters had put him in the front seat of a two man kayak. It is almost impossible to steer from the front in such a vessel so it was no wonder he was struggling.
Once we reached him,  Roxy riskily 'jumped ship' to join James where they were able to successfully paddle back to shore. Joy was in the back seat so could easily navigate her way to safety as well. The rescue mission was a success and everyone made it out , alive!

Local kayak renters

There are no fish living in this crater lake but there does seem to be some plant life/algae floating on the surface

Our sleeves, bums and legs were soaked and the dust had begun to stick to us again. 

We now had to start our ascent back to the top edge of the crater. It may have only been a 280m vertical climb but each step up was more difficult than the last and it just seemed like there was no air to breathe. The dusty path also made it more difficult as the loose sand offered no grip for us to push off of. 

We were happy to take frequent breaks to admire the view of the lake. 

Mules passing us along the way up. 

Alpaca spotted

This dog had the right idea, instead of struggling against the loose sand, jump up and walk along the stone wall. Clever creature! 

Fat, fluffy Alpaca - kind of looks like the one in Roxy's painting! Not... 

Hannah (Holland), Joy and our guide

What an attractive view! 

Just keep walking - almost there! 


A little black bird

A little local lady ushering her Mules back down the hill to go fetch yet another lazy human tourist

Is the end in sight? 

Yes! The end is nigh:) 

One last look at this incredible phenomenon of nature! 

We made it to the top and hurried into the restaurant to warm up for a little bit before we had to be on our way back to Quito.

After 30mins of defrosting, we were herded back into the bus for the 3hr journey back.
Joy was feeling a little nauseous before we left (we thought from walking so briskly at such a high altitude),  but didn't think much of it at the time.  However, as the trip commenced and the bus driver decided to scream around the corners like a madman once again, her condition became increasingly worse. Roxy fed her some homeopathic pills and fanned her with a book but by the time we arrived back at the hostel, Joy was dying and had to run out of the bus to the bathroom...

She was feeling extremely fragile but we still had to catch the Trole back to Daniel's house. We said goodbye to our group but promised to stay in touch. We first decided to have dinner with James and let Joy settle her stomach before facing the journey ahead.
To Joy, the 45min Trole trip felt like an eternity and each new waft of train smells, churned her stomach even further. By some miracle, we made it back to Daniel's house and Joy collapsed onto the bed. Daniel had some friends over and could see that we were exhausted and of course he was completely understanding when we excused ourselves and headed to bed.


Joy was still dying in the morning. It was not just a bit of altitude sickness or over exertion as we had previously thought, she had definitely caught a bout of food poisoning from the lunch at Quilotoa the day before - just an unlucky chicken piece! Fortunately, we did not have anything planned for the day so she could just sleep and run to the loo when needed.
Roxy decided to treat Daniel to a French toast breakfast. She ran off to the little corner shop to purchase all the complex ingredients.
Daniel had never had this kind of breakfast so Rox gave him a step by step tutorial - perhaps he could even make it to impress his girlfriend,  Karlha,  one day!

Daniel sprinkling on a little cinnamon but eager to tuck in! 

Roxy spent the rest of the day catching up on admin and being rather domestic. She did ours and Daniel's laundry, cleaned and scrubbed the kitchen, uploaded all our photos to the old and still managed to force-feeding Joy some flat coke and browned apples. 

Daniel is really such a thoughtful person. He called his mom over to come and take a look at the sickling. She was such a kind, motherly figure. She made Joy a special herbal tea and did all in her power to ensure Joy made a speedy recovery. 

By that evening Joy was feeling slightly more human, so we decided to try and go to the Otavalo Market the next day. We were in contact with James from our Quilotoa Tour and planned to go to the market together.  Hopefully Joy would be feeling well enough to tackle the long bus rides the next day! 

1 comment:

  1. Hey hero's well done for the Kayak rescue --us "Border People" are tough --keep it up