Chugchilan to Quilotoa
Yesterday the highest I rode was 11,500 ft and the bike ran perfectly. Starting it up on a cold morning at 10,400ft was another story. I hit the starter button and it ran for a second and then stalled. I tried it again and gave it some throttle right away and same thing. A third time and it was no better. I had my first moment of thinking “uh oh” I had plenty of fuel so it must be either the thin air or cold temps or both. I let it sit for a moment and tried again. Finally the sweet sound of my purring motor.
I rode the dirt road to the small town of Quilotoa to see the crater lake. The road was all dirt with a few rocky sections and just a small section of gravel and sand. Just before Quilotoa they recently paved the road. So much for my off road adventure. I think it will go back to dirt after Zumbaha.
The town is small but seems to be making the most out of the business from hikers and tourists who come to see the lake. There was a light mist when I arrived and thick cloud cover making it cold. The first time I’ve needed to wear my Krochet Kids hat.
To wait out the rain I went to a small one room restaurant for a cup of coffee. It was run by Gustavo, a 15 year boy who’s family owns the hostal and restaurant. We talked for awhile about Ecuador and the US. How many people live in our cities. 250,000 in mine and 250 in his. His father is a painter. Painting masks and other small things. Gustavo asked if I wanted to buy one. With no room for souvenirs on my bike I told him I couldn’t. I imagine they need every extra dollar they can get. There’s not much here in town, not even a school for Gustavo. He and the other teenagers travel 1 hour to Latacanga for school. Gustavo said there would be an hour of sunshine from 12 to 1 so I ordered another coffee.
There’s a few hiking trails at the lake. Either a 5-6 hour hike around the top edge of the crater or a trail down to the lake. It took 30-40 minutes to get down the mostly deep sandy trail that’s shared with horses carrying people back up. I waited at the bottom for a while hoping for the sun or at least some variation in the clouds. The sun never really showed up for more than a few minutes which would be followed by light rain. The hike back up reminded me how out of shape I am as I needed a couple breaks to catch my breath. Maybe I shouldn’t be that hard on myself as I am at almost 12,000 ft so fighting for every breath is probably normal.
More rain at the top so back to Gustavo’s restaurant to dry off and have a small snack. It’s 2 o’clock and the town I was thinking about riding to is only 20 minutes away but in this weather that’s a cold and wet ride. I decided to stay in the small pueblo of Quilotoa and just when I unpacked the sun came out. I grabbed my cameras walked across the street to the craters edge to shoot a timelapse of the lake. I sat against the cliff and watched the the clouds pass over the lake giving the sun a few chances to shine onto the water. The water was illuminated a light green color where the sun was shinning. This is what I imagined my trip would be like; an afternoon sitting on the edge of a crater lake with only the sound the wind and the few hikers passing by.
It was bitterly cold and the clouds took over so I went and got a room 100 ft from the crater at Hostal PachaMama for $12 including dinner and breakfast. There’s no internet in this small town which gives me time to just write without the distractions of the web.
I had lunch at the local street vendor area. A few families have grills and stoves set up in tents. They were grilling Guinea pig (called cuy) and plantain. I went vegetarian for lunch and just had potatoes. I sat under the small shelter as the cold wind blew outside. I thought I was cold sitting there then the mom with the 4 month old baby started breast feeding. Brrrrr. Everyone around is bundled up in scarfs and hats. Time for me to get back inside by the fireplace.