On our third day in Latacunga we booked ourselves onto a day tour of the Quilotoa crater lake. The day trip was again $35 per person and the schedule was the same as per Cotopaxi, pick up at 8am and return back by 5pm.
The tour itself is made of a couple of stops along the way, the first of them being the small and incredibly quiet town of Pujili. We stopped for only 10 minutes to take a quick look around the main square and learn about the style of architecture used, and the rope powered Swiss tower clock which chimes every 15 minutes.
Following this we carried on along a beautiful road through the mountains with stunning scenery, until we arrived at another pit-stop; the traditional houses of the indigenous people. We were shown a couple of the thatched houses that were dotted along the road and then invited to see the inside of one. However, what we came across was hard to accept.
Outside the house lay 2 near starved to death dogs and a wild falcon with clipped wings, in what can only be described as a triangular hand-made cage, which barely gave the powerful bird any space to manoeuver. It broke my heart to watch this majestic bird desperately trying to free itself from the cage. When I asked the guide why the bird was there, he replied that they had managed to catch the bird to display it for tourists who came to visit. In that instance I decided to not partake and turned off my camera and went back outside to wait for the others, needless to say without leaving a “donation” for the owners.
Our journey carried on until we reached the market town of Zumbaua, as it was a Saturday our visit coincided with the market. However, this was not a type of market I had come across before. At first it seemed pretty standard with the usual fruit, vegetable and clothes but as we wandered to the other side we stumbled across what can be best described as an animal cemetery.
The streets were littered with animal bones, and not just your usual chicken bones and odd steak bones, but rather half skull bones with teeth still attached. The smell of dead animals was also strong and everywhere you looked you could see hungry dogs chewing on animal skulls. Personally, I would not recommend this market for this reason and for the fact that it is not of any particular interest.
After a good half an hour of slowly being led through the market we moved onwards again to the view-point for the beautiful Rio Toachi Canyon. Apparently the biggest in Ecuador, the canyon has depths of up to 150 metres, and if you are feeling brave enough you can walk right to the edges of the ridges in the centre and feel as if you are flying above the canyon!
After taking a few photos we finally headed off to our final destination; Quilotoa crater lake. Once parked we were led up the path to the view-point and were then told to stop and close our eyes. The guide then led us the last few metres with our eyes shut. When we reached the fence we were told to open our eyes, and were met with this amazing sight!
The whole of the crater is filled with amazingly blue-green water and from the view-point you can see all the way around the crater. When you do the tour you can choose to either do the standard descend down to the lake and hike back up, or you can opt to walk around the crater which takes around 6 hours. The one thing to bear in mind though is that the crater rim is at 3850 metres altitude and that does take a toll on your system.
I was not feeling up to doing either option as I was feeling the after effects of climbing Cotopaxi the day before, therefore I decided to just do a short walk by myself part of the way round the crater while my partner went down to the lake and back.
When he returned he said the views from the lake where not as impressive as from above, whereas the short walk I took I thoroughly enjoyed as the views from the rim are remarkable. I just wish I had been feeling well enough to do the circuit as I imagine it to have been truly worthwhile.
Nevertheless, the crater view-point offers everyone the opportunity to appreciate the beautiful surroundings, and when you have had enough of the cold wind you can pop into one of the nearby hosterias for a hot tea!