Taking the final step to reach the top of the volcano crater was the most satisfying feeling after 3 strenuous days of trekking the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador.
But what was supposed to be the gratifying reward to ending the hike eventually turned into a nightmare.
It started off 4 days earlier in Latacunga. That night I took altitude tablets for the first time to help acclimatise to the heights of Quilotoa. A side reaction lead to a dreadful night vomiting multiple times. The next day I was bed ridden.
Fortunately all was better the following day as my brother and I caught a bus to start the trek with a very vague set of instructions from the hostel. They were so vague we couldn’t find where to actually start walking! We bumped into two other backpackers from England and France who were also lost. Joining forces, we managed to make some progress with the instructions and went forth on what we thought was the right path.
Turns out we were going the right way but on the wrong path. We found ourselves scaling farmer’s crops on steep hills when we were supposed to be on the path at the bottom. As we made our way down the steep hills to where the path was (not before falling over numerous times), we were greeted with 2 dogs barking aggressively.
Next thing we knew we were grabbing rocks, retreating back up the hill as fast as we could as the dogs came running after us. Fortunately a log blocking the path stopped them in their tracks just metres away from us.
But now we could not go back down for fear of getting bitten. Plan B? Scale the farmer’s crops again until we were a safe distance away from the dogs and on the path.
The next 2 days followed navigating our way through the Quilotoa Loop, meeting and forming a crew with a bunch of other travellers from Australia, Canada and Spain. However, on the last stretch we went our separate ways with a plan to meet that night at the volcano crater of Quilitoa. As my brother and I took the final step to reach the top of the volcano crater, the normally picturesque views were met with downpour rain, fog and low visibility.
Not the ending we were hoping for.
The instructions stated it should take 1 hour to walk the top of the crater to Quilotoa town. As visibility was low, we took what we thought was the ‘right’ path according to the instructions. Turns out it was anything but. When we realised it was the wrong path, we were too far in to turn around and going up was too dangerous.
For the next 4 hours, we were virtually stuck inside the volcano crater as we tried to make way on tiny farmer trails, jumping over trees and scaling narrow edges. A flash of panic went through me. What if we don’t make it out before the end of the day? Eventually we could see a path leading out of the crater on the opposite side. We were losing daylight so our backup plan was to sleep in a kayak shak in the distance. Climbing down the crater, I slipped but luckily my brother caught me before I fell further down.
Thankfully, we finally made it to the bottom of the path leading out before sunset. There was a massive uphill climb waiting for us but I did not care – I was happy to see a way out. Nearing the top, we caught a glimpse of our hiking crew friends. They were full of questions wondering where we were as we embraced each other! Eventually, the weather cleared and we were treated to stunning views of the volcano crater of Quilotoa.
That night was the best I have slept in a while!