Quilotoa, Cotopaxi and Quito, Ecuador

Km 14 797

Back on the Andean plateau, we take a small side road to Latacunga. From this town we cheat a little by taking a bus to Quilotoa. It’s not on our way at all and it’s a very long climb, so we took the liberty of going by bus (we’ll go back by bike at least, don’t worry!). Once in the village, we pay the entrance fee and walk to the crater of this extinct volcano. The sun is already low and we have a magnificent view of the Laguna de Quilotoa in the middle of the crater. We understand why this place attracts so many tourists, the colours sparkle in the sun and according to the locals’ belief, the crater lake is bottomless. We take many photos, then we look for a place to sleep. On this Friday evening it is very quiet, there are almost no tourists here. Only the inhabitants in their traditional costumes are talking to each other. We ask them where we can camp and they show us a strip of grass on top of the crater, just outside the village. We love this campsite overlooking the lake. It is certainly one of the most beautiful places on the trip. Only the cold wind bothers us a little, but that is normal at 4000m altitude. We enjoy the view as long as we can, but as soon as the sun sets, we crawl into the tent and our sleeping bags to warm up. Stray dogs have also chosen our tent as shelter from the wind, and one of them even manages to get into our tent and curl up between our bags. It is also really cold, so we let him sleep there tonight. In the morning, unfortunately, there is no sun and the colours are a bit grey. Matthieu decides to run around the crater while Kati keeps warm in the tent. At the end of the morning we leave this paradisiacal place and don’t regret having made the diversions!

We drive down to Zumbahua, where we eat papi pollo (fried chicken with chips) at the lively market. They sell everything: shoes, clothes, food, animals…. It is a really colourful spectacle, especially as most people wear traditional clothes. Then it’s a bit of uphill and downhill before we make a long descent (icy with the cold wind) to Latacunga. The next day we have to cycle a few kilometres on the highway before turning off to Cotopaxi National Park. The lower part of this famous volcano is visible, but the summit is hidden in the clouds. As it is a Sunday, there are many cars on the way to the national park, but there is a wide cycle path which is very nice. At the entrance to the national park we eat an almuerzo, then continue the climb in the afternoon. We pedal through an extensive rain shower and visit the park’s visitor centre, which gives lots of information about the park’s fauna and flora, volcanic activity and mountaineering in the Andes. Then we finally arrive at the top. We drive to Laguna Limpiopunga, where there are various birds. As we leave, it looks like Cotopaxi is becoming more visible, but the summit is still in the clouds. We cross the rest of the national park and pitch our tent just outside the park boundary (camping inside the park is only allowed in one place, which didn’t suit us). Behind a group of conifers we are protected from the wind and have a great view of Cotopaxi. While we pitch the tent, first one flank, then the other appears, only the top of the peak is still missing. At nightfall, we finally have a full view of the beautiful pyramid of Cotopaxi. It is wonderful, we would have liked to stay outside longer to enjoy the view, but the cold forces us to flee back into the tent.

Luckily we had a good view the day before, because in the morning Cotopaxi is again completely hidden in the clouds. Our destination today is Quito, but a very bad road separates us from the city. We grit our teeth and drive almost non-stop, first on gravel, then on completely uneven cobblestones. At noon we arrive in the suburbs of Quito completely shaken. We eat something, then we have one last small pass to get into the centre of Quito. It is hard, we thought we were already there when we saw the first houses. We had completely ignored this last climb. Arriving in the historic centre, we reward ourselves with a coffee and a waffle on a terrace, then we are warmly welcomed by our Warmshowers host Zach, an exchange teacher from Atlanta in the USA. We drink beer and eat a delicious soup while chatting. We are really spoiled! The next day we start with a walk through Parque La Carolina and Parque Metropolitano to explore the neighbourhood. But a long rain cuts our visits short and we return to the flat soaked. The next day we continue with a tour of the historic centre, up the Panecillo to the statue of the Virgin, from where we have a beautiful view of the centre, and the San Diego cemetery. We have one last day in Quito, which we spend in La Mariscal, a more modern neighbourhood, where we have lunch with the cousin of Kati’s mum. She lives in the Ecuadorian Amazon and has come to Quito for a small family reunion. We talk in German, we bring a piece of home here, we feel comfortable (at least Kati does 😉 ). After these moments of exchange, we put our bikes away for the following week, well protected from the bad weather, and head to the airport for a week’s holiday from cycling!

To see all photos, please click here:
Quilotoa, Cotopaxi and Quito

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