Monday, October 1, 2012

Staying warm in Quilotoa

Otavalo is a nice little town completely geared towards tourism and selling tourists wool clothing and other goods.  Every other shop is stockpiled with these goods.  The town also has a large market every day.  We stayed across the street from the market, so were able to see the stands go down at night and back up in the morning.  It is amazing how much work goes into getting the stands ready each day. Jill has been cold since we hit the higher mountain altitudes of Colombia, so this was the perfect time for her to buy a wool sweater with fleece lining, which she loves.  It is extremely warm and she wears it all the time.  It is also extremely big, so when she does not wear it while riding we now have to tie it onto the side and it takes up almost as much room as the pannier, but it is worth it.

Otavalo market

From Otavalo, our next destination was Quilatoa Lake.  we had to take the Panamerican most of the way, where we passed Cotopaxi volcano

Cotopaxi as seen from the Panamericana
(pretty sweet views from the Panamerican superhighway)

Ecuador has more fun ped Xing signs
(this doesn't have anything to do with anything, but I think Ecuador has the most fun ped crossing signs)

From Latacunga we were able to get off the Panamerican through several small indigenous towns to Quilotoa.  After paying the $2 each fee to get into the town, we stayed at Pachamama Hostel, just across the street from the lake.  We were at approximately 3900 meters and the wind was ripping through all night.  (Jill was very glad to have her new sweater.)  The hostel cost $10 per person per day, but includes a pretty decent breakfast and dinner.  It also had a wood stove in the room, that got very toasty and a shower that got surprisingly hot (when they had the water on).

Pachamam Hostal, Lago Quilotoa

Claudio and Franklin stoking the fire
(Claudio and Franklin stoking the fire)

The lake sits in a few km wide caldera, or collapsed volcano, and is truly stunning.  (It is around 250 m (over 800 ft) deep!) We had met a couple from Boston, Roy and Emily, at dinner and hiked with them down to the lake and back up. 

Overview of Lago Quilotoa

Lago Quilotoa

These school children were loving their field trip
(These school children were loving their field trip, and seemed to hike much faster than us)

There is a hostel at the bottom of the hike, run by Andrés, who is paid by the community to keep the hostel open.  Seems like a somewhat solitary job, but would be a beautiful place to stay and it was much less windy down there.

Community run hostal at Lago Quilotoa
(Community run hostal at Lago Quilotoa)

The hike back up was pretty steep and Emily, who was already not feeling well from food/altitude issues decided to take a nap while the three of us hiked the perimeter of the volcano.  Andrés told us that most tourists hike it in 4 hours, but the locals do it in 2 1/2.  The hike ended up being fairly rigirous but absolutely beautiful.  And we used our full 4 hours.

Hiking path around Lago Quilotoa
(the path led around the rim of Quilotoa)

One of the many ups on the path around Lago Quilotoa

Path around Lago Quilotoa

Quilotoa sheep
(we weren't the only ones walking around)

Lago Quilotoa

After a very full day of hiking, we thought that a beer was the perfect thing for us.  The town is extremely small with only a couple of shops, most of which are artisans trying to sell their wares to tourists.  We were chased down by this little girl, sent by her mother to sell us beer.  It worked.

How could you turn down this sales pitch?

We felt like the town had an interesting dynamic as it consists of only 2 markedly different groups of people:  very reserved indigenous people and tourists there to hike the lake.  Most of the townspeople seem to not want anything to do with the tourists except to sell them something.  It seems a bit awkward and forced on both sides.  Even so, the indigenous people that we had the chance to meet were all very nice (especially Andres, he was extremely sociable...and maybe just really lonely...).  Hopefully the tourist money provides the community with a better standard of living, but who knows.

Quilotoa sunset

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