Back in Quito we met with our Danish friends Tine and Frederik after weeks of travelling on the same route slightly ahead of them. It was lovely to get some company, and perfect timing as their first day in Quito coincided with Ulrik’s birthday.
We spent Ulrik’s birthday exchanging travel stories and by going to one of Quito’s many escape rooms. We had great fun solving an Indiana Jones themed room, although the attendant was very worried that we would not be able to solve it, as all instructions were in Spanish only.
We celebrated the birthday and the successful escape from the room with homemade burgers and lots of birthday rum from Guatemala — Tine and Frederik’s gift to Ulrik.
This also caused a very cozy day the following day, so it was not until the day after we actually got to see Quito. Our sightseeing turned into a mixed church and shopping run, where we visited the many beautiful churches in Quito, while we in-between tried to find stores selling all the small, weird things we needed. You would be surprised how hard it can be to find simple things like children’s beads!
As usual we got tired of the city and soon found a nature retreat at the border of the Cotopaxi National Park. The nature retreat turned out to be one of the worst tourist assembly lines we have yet encountered (and the most expensive), and only the extremely beautiful nature saved our days there.
We went on a short waterfall hike with the many other tourists arriving on the same day, and enjoyed a cool wilderness trail along the almost empty river bed.
On our second day we ventured into the national park and enjoyed a relaxed hike in the hills while we waited for a clearing in the sky allowing us to see the majestic Cotopaxi Volcano.
The rest of our stay we enjoyed the amazing views from the lodge, the jacuzzi, and a couple of long evenings in our tiny cottage repairing our gear. And Tine got a haircut with an exceptionally good view. 😉
However, we found no reason to prolong our stay (as pretty much everyone do — they must be richer than us 😉), so we hurried towards the Quilotoa Loop. Our goal was to hike from Sigchos to the Quilotoa Crater, a hike of around 40 kilometres criss-crossing over the deep canyon. We walked almost 3000 altitude meters up and 2000 meters down over the three days!
However, the nature was stunning and allowed for plenty of photo stops — and the accommodation was lovely. Specially, the place called Llullu Llama made our day with an upgrade to a lovely family room with a view, and a grazing llama just outside!
The last day was really tough with 15 kilometres almost only walking uphill. The reward was the lake in the Quilotoa Crater which is indeed a very beautiful reward! However, while waiting for our nightbus to Cuenca to continue our journey — and later in the bus — we kept wondering why we do this to ourselves. 😛
In Cuenca we enjoyed some great food, visited a mediocre museum, and went to see the old part of the city in the evening rain (it is a UNESCO site — we felt like we had to 😉). We were not exactly blown away by Cuenca, so we decided to spend the next day in the nearby Cajas National Park. Other tourists had described it to us as very beautiful, easy hikes, and a bit like Scotland. You can judge for yourself. 😛
We liked the day’s hike very much, and satisfied with our Ecuadorian adventures we once again boarded a night bus. This time heading to Peru!
Online travel reports recommended the company we travelled with, and we found no warning signs of that particular border crossing so we happily fell asleep in the very comfortable bus. Just to wake up at the border to true chaos.
We were off course aware of the difficult situation in Venezuela and the many Venezuelans fleeing to the neighbouring countries. We had also heard other travellers tell about hour-long lines of refugees at the border between Columbia and Ecuador. But nothing prepares you for thousands of people sleeping on the ground everywhere around the border control post, nor the sight of huge tented UNHCR facilities and the like.
It took us about two hours to go through the border formalities. Not necessarily because of the refugees, probably just because of the many night buses crossing the border. However, it will take much longer to get along with the fact that we at random have been born into a much more “lucky” world than these people sleeping on the sidewalk, with all their remaining belongings in suitcases, their children in their arms, thousands of kilometres away from their homes.