Part VI - Ecuador - The Pristine Quilatoa Crater Lake and Guagua Pichincha's Peak

With a goal to see the pristine and highly alkaline Quilatoa Lake, which is situated inside the extinct Quilatoa volcano, we departed from Latacunga on a late Sunday morning. We got a last minute $22 per person tour with a local guide in Latacunga, which included gas for a 2 1/2 hours drive each way, lunch, entrance fee to Quilatoa, the mule ride that took us back up outside of the crater and additional stops along the way : Pujili Marketplace, Tigua Museum, and an awe-inspiring Canyon Gorge.

Well, let me start off with saying that this excursion was quite the adventure!! At 4000 meters above sea level, it was a very slow and sleady climb 700 meters up to the refuge and then the peak. At the top of the active volcano (4781 m), I experienced the strongest wind I have ever felt in my life. And, of course, they had to make it feel even more dangerous as we walked along the peak's ledge from one end of the peak to the other in that wild wind. On one of the peaks, the locals had set up a few crosses and brought flowers (whose lives (the flowers, not the locals!) will be even more shorter-lived at the top of the cold mountain) as offerings to the saint of the mountain. We took a different trail back down the mountain onto a barely marked trail of lava/sandbanks. My feet had to work hard to keep me from falling... and I even sand skiied with my shoes at some point since the cliff was so steep and the sand was one foot deep. At the end, we were pretty dirty and tired, but it was such a small cost for such a big thrill!!

See below for pictures of Latacunga, the Pujili Market, Tigua Paintings, the Quilatoa Crater Lake, and the Guagua Pichincha Climb (65 pictures):

WEBSITE NEWS: I thought I would let you know that I have added a new level of information on my website... as I only distribute journals about every few weeks or so, and I travel almost every weekend (as I volunteer and hang out with friends mostly during the week), I have added "Last Trip" and "Upcoming Trip" on the front page of my website... so those of you who like to follow my footsteps even more closely can now do so! (I also update my current location indicator - yes, the silly animated jumping red dot -- every few days and indicate next to the title, when was the last time I have updated or checked into the site).

THANKS: I would also like to thank Heli Rantala, from Helsinki, who found out what the highest active volcano in the world actually is (by the new measures of calaculating volcano height) -- recall that Cotopaxi was previously claimed as the tallest active volcano. Located in northern Chile, in South America, the highest active volcano is now Ojos del Salado. Thanks Heli !

I am just returning from Cuenca tonight. The weekend was fantastic. On the way to Cuenca, I rode ontop of a train along steep cliffs for over 5 hours! Also, we took it easy this weekend once in Cuenca and took the time to visit this small city (third largest in Ecuador), ornate with impressive colonial architecture. Finally, I relearnt a british card game, called "Shithead", from some friends here -- I actually learnt it on the Galapagos trip, I guess my memory and I are getting old!

In the weekends coming up, I hope to discover...The Coast and the Jungle! (I can't believe I have been here for 3 months already (and have three months more to go) and have not even touched the Jungle or the Beach (apart from the Galapagos)!!