Quilotoa loop – hiking, horseriding and more

The Quilotoa loop is a popular hiking route in the Ecuatorian Andes mountains south of Quito. The hiking starts out in the sleepy little village of Quilotoa which is located in 3800 meters altitude and mostly known for its beautiful laguna, which is a lake created in a crater of an old volcano. The total loop is divided into 3 sections by small towns along the way and it ends in the town Latacunga where it all starts as well with taking the bus up into the mountains to Quilotoa.

As mentioned in a another post, I went along with Nathalie whom I met in Baños. It didn´t take her a lot of convincing me to make me come along on this small adventure, and now we were on our way to Latacunga with bus to leave my surfboards and some of our luggage not necessary for the hike at hostel there, and from  there we would take a bus up into the heights of Quilotoa before nightfall.

Getting of the bus in Quilotoa we immediately got approached by a young girl who asked if we needed accommodation for the night. We accepted her offer and got lodged in one of their two very basic (and later on quite cold) “appartments” whereafter we just got to see the sunset over the mountains. The family cooked us a very rich and good dinner and after a bit of talking story there was nothing left to do but hit the sack. Even though the fireplace had been lit, it got very cold during the night, luckily though my sleeping bag  kept me warm, but Nathalie had to jump from her bed into mine with her blankets and in addition take mine to stay warm. Next morning we got early up, had breakfast and said goodbye to our host family to get an early start on the around 12 km of hiking that day which would take us to another small village called Chugchilán. There it would be possible to stay the night in a comfortable hostel. The first hour of hiking would take us 1/3 of the way around the craters rim, from where we would start decending down to a small village marking the  halfway mark on the hike.

The weather was on our side and the hike would take us through beautiful green landscapes and stunning views of the mountains. In the small village on the halfway point we had a almuerzo (lunch menu) and watched for a while a girls soccer game. All the girls played wearing skirts, none of them were any good, but they were all having fun and many people from the village were watching this event. Continuing on the hike we would walk down into a canyon on narrow trails and when reaching the bottom of the canyon we had one final ascend up the village of Chugchilán which was the destination of the day. On the ascend we took a break to enjoy the surroundings before getting back to civilisation more or less of the small village. In Chugchilán we decided to stay at the Cloud forest hostal were we found hot showers, ping pong table, lighted stoves and internet. The rest of the day went with checking out Chugchilán, which didn´t take long and we found a local mens volleyball match which got quite heated at times. Later at the hostel a girl called Beckah whom we had met in Latacunga showed up at our hostel and she joined us for the next couple of days.

For the next day we decided to go horseback riding to the nearby village called Isinlivi, which would have a animal market that day. Early in the morning we set of on the horses after breakfast with overcast skies promising rain later. The steeds were ready and looking good though mine was definetely old faithful.  We were a group of 5 and soon after departure the horses were warm and eager to gallop. Old faithful knew the way and wanted to lead even though he wasn´t the strongest anymore, this caused a power battle which would be played out the most of the day between Old faithful and one of the other horses leading to a bit of friendly pushing and biting. Halfway to Isinlivi we had to cross a river, but on this day the water was too high and we had to turn around and instead we went up to the local cheese factory to taste the cheese. It had started raining and we were all soaked, so after 4 hours of riding we were satisfied with heading back to the hostel and the warm showers waiting.

The next day, with a sore bum for the previous days riding we decided to head back to Latacunga and we were lucky to get a ride in the back of a pickup truck all the way along with many locals heading to Sigchos or Latacunga – a good exploration of the loop was over.

 

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Baños – Adrenaline y diversion por favor

I won´t mention Montañita again, but after the repecharge, I decided to leave the coast and head for the mountains of Ecuador – which was Baños. Baños is a common stop on the backpacker Gringotrail and it is know for many for its beautiful setting, many adrenaline inducing activities, hot springs and waterfalls.

I went there to relax, breath the fresh air and do something else besides surfing, which had pretty much been my agenda for the last 4-5 months. The busride took around 10 hours and getting of the bus at 11pm was a freezing experience compared to the temperatures on the coast due to the big jump in altitude. The plan was to stay for 4 days and during those days do a bit of exploring of the area.

To make short stories shorter I went mountain biking for 40 km out and back along something they call route of  the waterfalls (in spanish though) which has 5 or something impressive waterfalls, where you can take a swim in the freezing water of one of them. The next day I wanted to explore the nearby mountain and visit a legendary swing I had heard rumours of. I didn´t know where the swing was but after some inquiries I was told it was on the nearby  mountain and the place was called Casa del Arbol. Later that night I met a American/Austrian girl called Nathalie at the hostel I was staying at and she was up for going to the magical swing the next day – the question though was how we would go there.

After a friend had told me earlier his stories of shredding up the mountains in Baños on a rented quad bike, I couldn’t get the idea of renting a offroader out of my head. The offroader would be 10 dollars an hour and Nathalie was up for riding pillion (passenger), so of we went and up the hill to explore and find this place called Casa del Arbol, which was where the swing would be.  Of we rode, and for 3 hours we had fun on the mountain, taking the bike down dirt roads into the national park on the top of mountain, up and down hills and Nathalie even had her debut riding a motorbike with me as co-pilot. In the end we found Casa del Arbol which is actually observatory for the nearby active vulcano, from which smoke is rising and deep roars can be heard in the night. The place us manned by a old man who has a shelter equipped with oxygen bottles and much more equipment for him to take cover in if the volcano is too erupt at some point. As a look out he has built a not very steady tree hut in a tree on the edge of the hill from which the vulcano can be viewed. The tree hut features a swing (which doesn’t feel steady aswell) on which you can propel yourself out beyond the edge of the hill to heughts of 10+ meters above the slope – scary but funny!

The following day was time to try out one of the 3 hot springs around and I went there with a english girl called Martha I met at the hostel. It was a interesting experience with several pools containing muddy moonshine water all with different water temperatures – from really hot to warm and one of them had gas bubbles bubbling up from the volcanic activity in the underground.

Nathalie the american/austrian girl told me about something called the the Quilitoa loop, which was supposed to be good hiking country in the altitudes not far from Baños. I didn’t know anything about it, but it sounded interesting and the next day we packed our bags and took off towards Quilitoa.

 

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Detox time – Ayampe and up the coast to Canoa

After 14 days in Montañita it was time to get out and away. While staying in Montañita I did some day trips to other small towns nearby. One of them is called Ayampe, and it is located 40 minutes north of Montañita by bus. A real rough diamond of a beach town located on the northside of a headland with a beautiful beach which has punchy waves, a very unspoiled local community and no party at all making it a good place to relax. After 7 days straight of party I needed to detox, practice my newly acquired spanish skills and get some surfing in.

I choose to stay in a cheap hostel right on the beach and every night I would fall asleep to the breaking waves and every morning my first sight would be the pacific ocean. I spend my days reading, exploring Ayampe and its surroundings and  surf a couple of times a day. Some mornings I would get up before the break of light to wait for the first bus (which would often pass right by me making me wait another 30 mins for the next one), getting me eaten by mosquitoes and sandflies, for it to take me to a regional classic left point called Rio Chico. One morning it was flat, but the next morning it was pumping!

Some days would have electricity and internet, while other days would be a black out.

After 5 days I felt like it was time to explore the coast further up north. I had been told I would be able to find the Ecuatorian Pipeline in a small town called San Lorenzo. I took the bus for 2 hours north only to find a ghost town with no budget accommodation and blown out small waves. I was told by a local that it was out of season and I took the first collectivo (pickup truck with a covered bed for passengers) to the closets bigger town called Manta to find a cheap place to stay. Walking around Manta I met two guys from England which I had already met in Montañita and we found a decent place to stay together. Thereafter we went out to get a few beers and see what Manta would have to offer on a Monday night. We did pretty well and the next day we were more or less famous in Manta. The english boys decided leave for another beachtown up the coast called Canoa, while I decided to stay another night to get up early the next morning and give the Ecuatorian Pipeline i San Lorenzo another chance. I got up and took the bus with my surfboard at 6am, the weather wasn´t good and as I arrived in San Lorenzo I saw only small and blown out waves like two days before. Dissapointed, I went back to Manta, got me a 2 dollar shave in a barbershop a solid breakfast, packed my bags and headed up the coast to Canoa to meet up with my friend Jimmy and others from Montañita.

After a 6 hour busride (which was the direct bus that took a long way around) I arrived in Canoa to find out what this place was all about. This place was somewhere in between Montañita and Ayampe and I had a couple of chilled days with the guys, before we decided to head back to Montañita for one more round.

 

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Ecuador, Montañita (Sin City)

It has been a while since I took the time to write about my experiences here in South America – I have been surfing a lot, had a little bit of party and been a bit lazy at the same time. It is now 6 weeks ago since I left Ecuador for returning to Peru, and below is a bit about what I experienced during the 1,5 months Ecuador:

Ecuador took me by surprise! I went there with few expectations and the purpose of meeting up with my friend Mads, who was excaping daily life in Denmark for some weeks In South America.

We met up in this little beach town I had heard off from others travellers called Montañita. I expected to stay for a week or two and then go back to Peru – but Ecuador sucked me in and I wanted to see more.

Before arriving I didn´t know much about Ecuador besides the famous Galapagos islands. After more than a month in Lima I was in a bit of a slump and I was ready to get out of city and see something else. After spending easter in the small fishing port port of Pacosmayo, Peru which is most known for its waves and giant cement factory, I took the night bus to Guayaquil, Ecuador from Chiclayo. From there, I went straight to Montanita and rocking up I immediately realised I had arrived in Sin City with lightly clad girls everywhere, bars on every corner and loud music being played constantly.

Soon after arriving I found Mads on the beach, checked into a hostel a we had a few beers and fish tacos the first night.
It soon became obvious that something out of the ordinary was about to go down in Montanita as the premier surfbreak the Point was overcrowded with old surfers who could rip the waves and the whole town was preparing itself for what turned out to be the ISA World Masters Surfing Championship for surfers over 35 years. That meant the best surfers over 35 years from all over the world were in the water preparing for the competition making it difficult getting the good waves breaking on the point.

Anyways it was exciting to see these old guys rip and it made for good inspiration. Denmark didn’t have a team in the competition even though Denmark recently joined the ISA organisation. It was quite a coincidence that Mads and I were in Ecuador at the same time of the competion, and we immediately thought it would be fun to enter as a team representing Denmark and competing against great surf nations such as Australia, Hawaii, USA and many more. All that was necessary in order to compete was for us to be above 35 years old and pay the entry fee and we would be set. Mads being 37 was above the minimum required age, but the organisers would not let me with my 28 years slip get in under the radar and join him. In the end, Mads decided not to partake as he would be a one man team and it would require him to change his flight ticket if he was to make it further than his first round in the competition. In addition the funniest part of it all would have been the fact that the biggest amateurs Mads and I would be competing together as a team for Denmark against great surfing nations represented by old world class professional surfers.

After a week Mads went back to Lima, Peru where he had initially come from when arriving in South America. I decided to stay another week in Sin City and take a week of spanish lessons at Montañita Spanish School which is popular with travellers and kind of cheap. A week of group lessons with 4 hours a day would be 150 dollars. I had already done some lessons back home in Denmark before I left, but back then I was very busy and didn’t have enough time to dedicate myself – and therefore my spanish was very basic. The week of lessons helped a lot even though I got sucked into the party on the last two school nights, which hampered my performance a bit :-)

The two nights of partying was the beginning of a 7 days straight fiesta rampage which after the first night was joined by my Australian friend Jimmy who I had met while staying in Lima. After a week in Montañita I got tired of the hostel I was staying in as It wasn’t very social. I moved to another hostel called Paradise South, which I now dare to claim is probably the best place to stay in Montañita. It had a great atmosphere which was caused by a cool garden and lounge area where everybody would meet up to chat, play pool or warm up before hitting the party. A great collection of people were staying there at the time, and it was all about good vibes and having fun. In addition the hostel was almost on the beach, so it wouldn’t take much effort to make from the bed to water the day after.

When everything was said and done it was a lot of fun, but as it is with party at some point you have to say stop and get out and away from the temptations, which was what I did after 7 nights.

From there I went to Ayampe a beautiful and quiet beach town 40 minutes north of Montañita which I had discovered along with Mads. From there I went up the coast until I met up with Jimmy and more friends in a similar quiet beah town called Canoa – and back for one more round of Montañita before I went to the beautiful, but a little bit cold, mountains of Ecuador.

 

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This was what went through my head when getting a decent wave at El Faro – Pacasmayo, Peru

A couple of weeks ago a big swell for the south-west pacific hit the whole american continent from south to north resulting in good waves all along the coast. For this swell I took some days of from surfing in Lobitos in the north of Peru, and went with the night bus for 8 hours south to a place called Pacasmayo in central Peru. Pacasmayo can handle big swells, and it dishes up long walls and rides which will make your legs burn. I got a couple of decent ones and below is one of them caught on camera.

 

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We rode at dawn – 6 hours later my testicles were “sensitive”

I´m not a cowboy –  though after getting to the mountains I have been having a great urge to ride something – be it a llama, pig, donkey, cow or horse.

To make it easy, my travelling companion and partner in crime  – Nathalie from USA/Austria – and I agreed to go horseriding in the mountanious outback of Quilotoa, Ecuador. It was sweet and very funny though soreness in difference parts afterwards of the body was the cost.

We supposed to ride to a little nearby town where we would go to the weekly animal market, but too much water in the river we had to cross forced us to turn around and change our tour  – good times anyways.

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Pumping Iron – Muscle Beach, Ecuador

This is how you pump the IRON.

Pumping Iron

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Olas de Ecuador

Small waves and warm water of Ecuador.

 

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The world in black and white with grain

 

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Easter eggs in Pacasmayo

My good friend Alvaro suggested a trip up north from Lima to the little surf town of Pacasmayo and the sometimes endless Point break of El Faro. After a 12 hour bus ride from Lima we arrived Thursday morning. The ocean turned out to be almost flat, but we kept our spirits up with tabletennis and good ceviche. Friday had a little bit more to offer so we went to another point break nearby called Puamepe point, where we had a solo session in inconsistent but fun waves. Saturdaya swell was filling in showing El Faro’s potential and on Sunday it was pumping even more with waves that would make our legs tired and our arms and backs exhausted from the 10 minute paddle back to the peak. Monday had more waves on offer, before I had to catch the bus to Ecuador from Chiclayo – another 14 hour busride :-)

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