Ecuador: Quito, Latacunga, Quilotoa Loop, Montanita

Arriving to Quito on the evening of Nov 9th, I had a few days to chill and checkout the city. My friend Phil from San Francisco decided, on a whim, to join me for a couple of weeks, as he had some time between jobs. Having a few days to kill in Quito, I headed out to Cotopaxi for a day hiking/MTbiking trip and another hike to Rucu Pichincha 4,698m (15,413 ft) with Fernando (a guy from Spain who met his love in Cali, Colombia and recently moved to live there) and Carlos (a guy from Armenia, Colombia, who was visiting Quito for work, but couldn’t resist mountain love). So we hiked. Rucu Pichincha is reached by taking a teleferico that rises to 4,000m (~12,000ft) above sea and over 1km above Quito (which is not shabby at 2,800m above sea) and then hiking for another 2-3 hours uphill. Quito was steady raining every single day during this time and this day was no exception, however at these altitudes the rain is no longer rain, it’s snow. Fernando turned around quite early (as he just arrived from South Ecuador and wasn’t acclimated) but Carlos and I continued on. I felt a good bond with him as we both shared a lot of love for the mountains. We got as far as we can (about 20 meters shy of top rock), but given our lack of gear (I was wearing jeans) and the fact that visibility was shit, coupled with some crazy thunder and snow, we turned around and headed back. Was slipping on a mud and getting my jeans soaked and muddy included in this adventure? Yes. 

As for Cotopaxi, i Initially wanted to climb the full volcano, which is pretty tall at 5,800m and involves glacial hiking with crampons starting from 5,000m.  However due to bad weather, no refund policy with climbing agencies and the fact that I already reached the first glacier on the mountain biking trip, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. 

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Photo: First glacier of Cotopaxi

Another cool and serendipitous adventure was on perhaps the 2nd day in Guayaquil. Three largest bread companies in Ecuador were throwing a private party to their customers (buyers, etc), which was hosted at a bullfighting ring: bulls, matadors, live band, free flowing beers, open buffet with chicharon and locals having a great time on a Sunday afternoon. We sneaked in and had a blast with the locals. As evident below: 

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Photo: Byron and I with event decor  These poor girls have to work “so hard”. Standing and looking good is hard. Think about it – you need to both “stand” and “look good”. 

After meeting Phil in Quito, we headed to Latacunga (small town used as a base for most mountaineering treks in the area). From there we started a hard, but rewarding 2-day trek on the Quilotoa Loop.

Quilotoa Loop Map

Quilotoa Loop Map: Clockwise from Latacunga to Pujili, to Zumbahua, to Quilotoa, to Chugchilan, to Sigchos and Sasquisly, then back to Latacunga. We only did part of this truly beautiful hike.

Rudy (a bud I met in Cartagena in September) also joined us for the adventure. We started by doing the 5 hour hike around the famous Laguna de Quilotoa. It was a really tough hike, mainly due to pretty big ascents but also coupled with some elements:  rain/snow and lack of visibility at one point clearly didn’t help. That night we camped in Chugchilan. In the morning we hiked the next leg of the Quilotoa Loop, finishing in a tranquil village of Sigchos. Some pics from that day below:

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Hitching a ride: the last leg of Chugchilan to Sigchos

That day we saw a cow give a birth to a baby calf. Coincidentally assisted by an Ecuadorian man, a professor at the University of Illinois. Next was a nightmare chain of buses overnight to reach Montanita, where we were going for some oceanside fun. My personal impression of Montanita upon arrival was not very positive – a tourist mecca with too many restaurants, too many sellers and peddlers of all sorts. After enjoying a couple of days there and having a chance to catch a few waves, I eased a bit and saw a better side of Montanita, highlighted by insanely delicious $5 mixed seafood ceviche, beautiful sunsets and a couple decent nights out at the local bars. 

Phil unfortunately caught a pretty nasty digestive problem that prevented him from enjoying those days when we arrived to Montanita. I had to keep going to make it to Lima by November 18th, so Rudy, myself and Rich (a bud I met in San Gil, Colombia) headed out of the twister paradise Montanita and on to Guayaquil from where Rudy split off to go to Mancora (Peru), while Rich and I had to keep going further south. Myself all the way to Lima, whereas Rich stopped in Trujillo to check out some ruins. Before we all scattered, we spend a nice chill afternoon hanging around Guayaquil’s Malecon 2000, and Las Penas and went to a movie theatre for a man-date. 

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Las Penas: oldest neighborhood in Guayaquil, which is now beautiful restored and protected by too many cops.

(Written on Dec 27th but backdated to the day i left Ecuador – Nov 19th)

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