Hola a todos!
This week, I was hit with an internal dilemma. I have less than 5 weeks left in Ecuador, but I have a lot places I still would love to visit. One of those places is Laguna Quilotoa, a lake that filled in a depression (which formed due to rapid magma activity from Volcán Quilotoa). Since I have enjoyed hiking this semester, I really wanted to do a significant hike while in Quilotoa. However, I couldn’t find anyone to go with me this weekend. Quilotoa was something that I wanted to experience, and I knew that if I didn’t go this weekend, I probably wouldn’t have the chance to go again. Instead of missing out on something I truly wanted to do, I decided to embark on my first solo trip in Ecuador!
Side note: This was a very last minute decision, and to some, traveling solo may seem very unwise. However, I was extremely careful on the buses, I hiked with a guide, and the rest of my downtime was spent in the lodge where I slept for two nights. I felt very safe the entire time.
Now on to the adventure… I left Quito at 8am. After a series of 4 buses, allowing me to travel from Terminal Quitumbe to Latacunga to Chugchilán, I made it to my ecolodge, Black Sheep Inn. Yes, I did say Ecolodge! This place is right up my alley. They serve vegetarian meals, use compostable toilets, and have a yoga studio that I could use any time! When I checked in, there was only one other family from Oregon who was staying here. They were amazing! They told me about some of their other travels, which gave me inspiration for travel destinations in the future. The dad is also an ER doctor, so of course, I ended up having some conversations about medicine and public health with him. After checking in, I took a short hike, read, and did some yoga. It was a relaxing end to day full of travel.
On Saturday, I accomplished what I set out to do: hike! I took a 6 hour guided hike that went from Quilotoa back to Chugchilán where Black Sheep Inn is located. Laguna Quilotoa is stunning! The lake is a gorgeous, blue-green color. The water would sparkle as the sun came and went. It was breathtaking!
After walking around Quilotoa for about an hour, we started to descend a canyon to head back towards Chugchilán. Along our way, we saw a lot of wildlife—sheep, cows, chickens, goats, llamas, etc. For plants, we passed tons of grasses, shrubs, flowers, and pine trees. The hike into and out of the canyon was beautiful due to all of this diversity. Before we headed down the canyon, we ate a delicious lunch provided by my lodge. It was so good that a goat really wanted a taste. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t willing to share. Along this portion of the hike, I got a glimpse of what living in a rural environment is like. There is quite a bit of poverty here, and the people who live in these towns mostly depend on agriculture to make a living. I’m very glad to have gotten the opportunity to witness this lifestyle because it is very different than what I am used to in Quito. After coming out of the canyon, we made it back to the lodge. Later, I celebrated with lots of free coffee and baked goods that the lodge provides for its guests. I also came back to discover more guests—including Dutch guy and a French biker gang of sorts. I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by reading and practicing more yoga.
On Sunday, I made a quick trip with the family from Oregon to a nearby town to experience a local market. There was a hodgepodge of meat, fruit, bread, and artisanal crafts. Then I hopped back on the buses to head back to Quito.
This was an amazing weekend for me. One of the lessons that I have been learning here in Ecuador is to embrace my independent personality. A lot of people hate doing things alone, but I’m learning how liberating it is. I don’t have to depend on other people. I don’t have to sacrifice what will make me happy in order to satisfy a group. I have the freedom to choose what I want to do, however I want to do it, whenever is fitting for me. I do not regret this decision to travel solo whatsoever. In fact, I recommend that everyone tries a solo trip, big or small, at some point in their life. My adventure to Quilotoa will definitely be one to remember!