Welcome to our blog, which has pictures and news of our travels! If you like a picture, be sure to click on it to see a larger version.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Hiking to the Quilatoa Crater Lake

One of the attractions of staying at the Black Sheep Inn was it's proximity to the Quilotoa Crater Lake. It's not right next to it, but it's close. On the right is a link to the satellite view, so click on it and take a look! The lake itself is easily seen, and you can also see some of the inhabited areas to the right...and you don't see many signs of life around the crater from this view. It's mostly cultivated fields and just a couple of settlements, all linked by a single road that takes about a five to eight hour drive to complete the loop.

In the morning, the four of us and about eight others packed ourselves into a cattle/produce/farm truck bed and got bounced and jostled for about an hour and a half up to the mountain. It's hard to tell Quilotoa from the other mountains and ridges from a distance, and walking up to the rim and looking down is quite dramatic.

The picture above is three different pictures, stitched together. Click on it to see the bigger view!

The hike down is pretty easy, of course, although it's a bit slippery at times when you hit patches of sand. It took longer than we thought to get down to the lake, but on the way down we got to talk with other people that were doing the same thing. It was quite enjoyable to see so many Ecuadoreans hiking down, enjoying a holiday just like us. Some people were from a town just a few miles away.

The amazing green color of the water turned out to be a layer of algae on the bottom of the lake. The water itself was very clear! I took a little bottle of water as a sample, to take back to Chris' classroom.

Herbie and Gail, a couple that were also staying at the Black Sheep Inn, shared lunch with us just up from the shore. The wind was quite strong at the top, on the descent and at the bottom, so we sort of huddled against a ledge to eat. Since the hike back to the Black Sheep Inn is about five hours long, you have to pretty much choose to hike straight back after the truck dropped you off, or hike to the bottom of the crater and then hike back up and then catch the one bus per day that goes past the Black Sheep Inn. Chris and Sharon hiked back, and we went to the bottom.

After having a brief lunch, Gail headed back up the trail first. She was the only one with a watch, and she was keen on catching that bus! After eyeing the mules, I procured one for Susan and Gail (as a surprise). Herbie volunteered to ride Gail's mule up to her, so off we went.

In the rightmost picture, you can see Susan and Herbie on the mules, just coming up out of the riverbed and onto the trail that leads up, out of the crater. I tried my best to stay ahead of the mules, trying to reach Gail first, to be able to see her surprise when Susan and Herbie arrived by mules.

I huffed my way up and when I reached Gail, she was already on a mule of her own. "$5? Are you kidding?!" she said. I slowly fell behind, the mules being a little more used to climbing 1200 feet without stopping.

When we were about three quarters of the way to the top I came to a beautiful overlook and had a nice little rest on a rock, surveying the lake below. The mules, along with the little girls that tended them, continued on. I was panting just like the mules, but the little girls were laughing and goading the mules on. Other kids were running up and down the path, playing hide and seek.

Climbing back up at mule speed, we reached the top in just fifteen minutes more than the time it took for the descent. I was spent! We had a little coffee at a small restaurant, and I had a tasty bowl of soup. MMMmmm.

We walked down to the place where we were to catch the bus and waited. The wind was stiff and we took refuge behind a house where two boys were playing. We started talking to them, and Gail gave them little tablets and pencils she had brought with her.

They all took turns writing their names and demonstrating their math skills. Another friend came along and he shared some stories, too. They were rightfully quite proud of themselves!

When the bus finally came, it was absolutely packed. We pushed ourselves to the rear of the bus, which at least didn't have people standing in the aisles...it was packed with sacks of potatoes and rice. Herbie just plopped himself down on some sacks and Susan snagged a seat when it was vacated.

We bounced along on the way back, watching the bus slowly empty and we eventually all had seats at the end. The ride was quite bumpy and the roads were quite curvy...and eventually a little girl lost her lunch. Wow, that didn't help much...although eventually we could open some windows.

We got back to Black Sheep and had a chance to sit down and have a little rest...and a little drink. Sharon and Chris actually made it back before us, since the bus was a little late in arriving.

We swapped our stories and each was glad we did what we did: they had a long walk along the crater edge for a while and then down into the valley and then back up...and we went down into the crater to the lake and back up...to the bus!

As the sun went down the light was like a glow, so we settled down on a picnic table with a view of the valley. We had some drinks and played some cards until dinner.

Black Sheep Inn was a delightful place to stay, and breakfast and dinner were included. This night was a favorite dinner: swiss chard soup (I had three bowls!) and shepherd's pie. MMMmmm.

After dinner we retired to one of our rooms and played some more cards. Susan and I had been on 'vacation' for a while now, but this was the 'vacation' for Sharon and Chris! We laughed and laughed, playing and carrying on for quite a while. We didn't realize how late it was when we finally finished...and then had to apologize to Herbie and Gail the next morning...since they were in the cabin next to us!

Somewhere in the middle of the night, Susan decided to get up and have a little water. In the dark, which bottle did she decide to sample?! You got it, the 'sample' from the lake. Luckily she tasted the difference, but then spewed it all over the floor. Was it the algae chunk that gave it away? She wouldn't tell... She got the other bottle after that, and all was well.

We'll post about our other day's hike later....see you!

No comments: