Hiking in the Andes, Some of the Most Beautiful Views I’ve Encountered

After an interrupted sleep in Quito straight from the Amazon, my alarm went off at 6 to get ready for my day trip to Cotopaxi. Breakfast was provided at a hotel on the way so we were fuelled up and ready to go, but in classic South America fashion our tour bus never actually arrived to pick us up after breakfast, and we were put on another bus that came to the same place for breakfast.

The clouds were out, the wind was out in full force and we were just hoping the rain wouldn’t start. We arrived at the starting point, already some 4500m from sea level. We needed to get to 4900m, a walk of only 400 vertical metres and probably just over a kilometre. But I’ve learnt that when you’re that high you can’t help but stop every 10 or so metres, needing to pause to catch your breath due to the sheer lack of oxygen in the air. It was difficult, and by the afternoon I felt sick and had a killer headache, but it felt worth it. The views could’ve been better if the cloud had disappeared but we still got a view of the mountains surrounding us and could occasionally see the tip of the volcano, active yet dormant, but active enough to need a local guide in case it erupted while we were walking, something I discovered 5 minutes before starting the hike.

From Cotopaxi I was dropped off on the side of a highway where I was told I would find a bus going to Latacunga. There weren’t many, and I ended up getting on a bus bound for Baños with a Danish couple who had been waiting almost an hour for one to stop. With my strong lack of Spanish I thought he was telling me Latacunga was fine, but he wouldn’t be able to drop me at the bus terminal. It turned out I was getting dropped off on the side of the highway again, this time to find a bus or taxi going into the town of Latacunga. I was told by the others waiting around to jump into an almost full taxi, and while I was confused I did as I was told and managed to arrive at my hostel where I could pack my bag for the quilotoa loop and have some time to rest.

Saturday morning came around and I jumped on a bus for Quilotoa, starting my hike with the lake rather than ending with it, a way to make it a little easier I had heard. The lake was stunning despite the cloud cover and I admired it as I walked around the western side of it before separating to continue on to the town of Chugchilan. The walk was about 5-6 hours including snack breaks and general stops to catch my breath on the uphill sections. I arrived at Hostal Cloud Forest exhausted, sore and in need of sugar to boost my energy, stopping for a sprite and a banana on my way.

Sunday and Monday provided similar walks, they could’ve been shorter but I took a couple of wrong turns which obviously lengthened the process. The views were always spectacular, providing the mountains in all their shapes and sizes, varying colours of green and scattered houses throughout. I had to limit how often I could take my camera out or I wouldn’t have made it to my destination by nightfall, I simply had to enjoy the moments for myself and relish in the fact that it was a show just for me.

On Sunday night I stayed in Isinlivi in a hostel called Llullu Llama which had a sitting area to look out over the view. I of course took advantage, setting myself up with my book, my tea – which soon turned into a glass of red wine – and a blanket to mask the wind. I woke up to sit and admire the view again, this time without a cloud in the sky to disrupt it; making my last day of walking even more beautiful but even hotter than the previous days.

By Monday evening, three buses later, I had arrived in Baños. A touristy town specialising in adrenaline based activities that I could save my money on and instead do the cheaper, safer options.