Our monthly get-out-of-Quito trip in April was to Lake Quilotoa, a crater lake 171 kilometers (106 miles) away. We stayed two nights in a hostel in Chugchilán, one of the villages close to the lake.
Our trip there involved 1) walking to the closest Trole station (one of Quito’s three mass-transit bus lines), 2) an hour ride to Quito’s southern terminal at Quitumbe, 3) about an hour bus ride south to Latacunga, and 4) an almost four-hour bus ride to Chugchilán–about seven hours in all. The scenery was worthy of a tour bus as we wound from one small town to another on precipitous and curvy mountain roads.
We stayed at the Hostal Cloud Forest, a way station on a multi-day trail loop through Quilotoa, Chugchilán, and other small Andean villages, which provides bed, breakfast, and dinner for $15/night/person.
Meals were a chance to chat with other guests, mostly backpackers. Our first night we ate dinner with a couple about our age from Grenoble, France. They are sailing from the Canary Islands to Polynesia, where they plan to live six months each year on their boat and return to France for the other six months.
The next morning we nearly missed our bus to Quilotoa; we were told it would leave at 5 a.m. but at 4:50 it was pulling away with us running after it! We chose the 5 a.m. bus ($2) over hiring a taxi later in the morning ($25), but we’re not sure we would do it again; we huddled for a couple of hours until the sun came up and Jody found a café and some hot tea. She thawed her feet while Scott hiked the 1,000 feet down and back from the lake.
About 9 a.m. we headed back to Chugchilán, following a trail about halfway around the crater rim, then descending to a Quichua village (Guayama San Pedro). The trail then plummeted down a steep ravine, through huge slabs of rock, to the the Tochi River.
After crossing the river we hiked up to Chugchilán and our hostel, arriving about 2 p.m. The hike back was about 12 km (8 miles)–900 meters of descent and 400 meters of climbing–strenuous but beautiful.
Sunday morning we bused back to Latacunga via Zumbahua (only two hours, but still on precipitous mountain roads), then reversed our Friday trip: Latacunga to Quitumbe to our Trole stop and home, about 5-1/2 hours.
Here are some photographs: