Machachi, Ecuador – The Quilotoa roundtrip

The crater walls of the Quilotoa stand completely on their own in a circle. In the middle is the emerald green lagoon, in a sheltered place mirroring clouds and crater walls. Who likes can hurry downhill the 400 m / 1320 ft of elevation to the waterline on a sandy path for 1.5 km / 1 mi and uphill on foot or on a mule. Alternatively one can hike around the lake along the edge of the crater for around six hours. Admission fee is 2 $, sleeping on the parking lot (S 00°51’59.7’’ W 78°54’58.5’’) in front of the crater would be possible as well. Coming from south Laguna de Quilotoa is accessible via paved roads; from here on we drive for 50 km / 31 mi on a pretty good sand track through the mountains. The area is known for its artists that capture naive painting on sheep skin, which is depilated and cleaned with a special procedure. Three kilometres / 2 mi after Tigua there is a sales exhibition.

The Quilotoa roundtrip seems to be popular among globetrotters. On our way we meet German Frank with his BMW motorcycle, who already formed his opinion after travelling 14 months through South America: “The people here are stupid and futile.” Well, enjoy your further trip. In a tiny village we see the well-known car of an English couple on a world trip whom we have met at the Overland Expo in Amado, Arizona. They have a breakdown. The transmission case of their Landrover is broken since two weeks, but they seem to have pretty well integrated into the community. If brandishing the machete or tending cows – nothing is worse than boringly waiting for spare parts. We have to admire them. Nearly without Spanish knowledge they happily and impartially repair around the world.

The complete Quilotoa roundtrip is 200 km / 125 mi, a quarter from it is sand track, the rest cobblestone and asphalt, altogether problem-free for most cars. In the end, back to the Pan Am, we turn north again to the town Machachi. The Papagayo farm will be our nightly host (S 00°33’38.5’’ W 78°35’41.6’’, feeder road 1.5 km / 1 mi south of Machachi toll station, direction EcoRoses). Although they ask for 5 $ pp for camping on the parking lot in an intransigent way, they have at least bathrooms, hot showers, and a fast internet. The Papagayo seems to earn its money with Cotopaxi mountain climbers and to organize these tours. Even though not all clamberers return happily: They are all exhausted, but not all of them reached the peak. Maladaption to the elevation, insufficient fitness, or just bad luck with altitude sickness are the main reasons.

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