Leaving behind the Northern Hemisphere and all that it entails (i.e. summer, warm weather, not winter), our journey continued south in search of various Andean locations of which we had heard. As I sit here today, nursing what is now a 5-day beach-inspired hangover, I leave you with my best attempt at highlights from our final 10 days spent in Ecuador, miles above the ocean:
Quilotoa Loop – A circular path around a small section of Ecuador, consisting of cliff-hugging roads, endless hiking trails and a 3AM milk truck that encircles it all, the Quilotoa Loop was our first departure from the well-worn "Gringo Trail," onto less-traveled, and more unfamiliar territory (unfamiliar = un-Lonely Planet friendly). Our first stop along the loop was the city of Quilotoa, a tiny village set above an ancient volcanic lake, thriving with all of 100 citizens (the 13,000 ft altitude and nightly 50MPH winds probably play a role in the lack of long-term residents). With little to do besides walk the main strip (25 seconds), and visit the lake (a bit longer than 25 seconds), our next stop along the loop took us to the more "memorable" aspect of our 3 day journey – the hike to Chugchilan. Advertised as a 4-6 hour "downhill trek" (which of course consisted of an unmentioned 2-hour uphill section), we encountered one of the oddest entities to date – racist animals. Despite our inconspicuous clothing (i.e. bright yellow/pink ponchos), normally subdued animals around their Ecuadorian owners apparently became enraged when approached by "gringos." Thus, after our 4 hour hike we managed to encounter the following list of angry animals:
After finally arriving in Chugchilan, with a few new emotional and physical scars to share, we were treated to the end of our journey with encouraging news that the only bus back the following day left in 10 hours, at 3AM. Thus concluding a fairly rapid, yet more eventful, trip around the Quilotoa Loop.
(After that novel of a story, the next few cities will be dumbed down a bit)
Banos – Extreme sports capital of Ecuador (that mountain + water combo keeps seeming to do the trick). Highlights = 15 mile bike road down waterfall-scattered road, 3 days of Spanish lessons, a visit to some hot springs and an open-aired chiva bus ride up a volcano to listen to a incomprehensible Spanish comedian (3 days of classes did NOT come in handy for translating witty/topical Spanish humor). No extreme sports were partaken, as they did not pass the Skone threshold of extremeness. (For a lesson on extremeness, please read the following: The Skone Guide to Being Extreme)
Cuenca – Pretty city. Highlights = Walking and commenting on prettiness.
Vilcabamba – Amazing resort. Highlights = Relaxing and commenting on relaxibility factor. (You can visit Izhcayluma Resort if your curiosity wishes for a more in-depth description than the complete lack of one I provided -- I'm a blogger, not a travel writer).
Next Stop: Northern Peru
Onto the pics: