Trekking the Quilatoa Loop: Day 2
If day one was about a many small wrong turns, day two was about one big one.
We started day two out slow and leisurely with breakfast at the Lulu Llama followed by hang out time with Baloo the hostel St. Bernard named after the bear in the jungle book both for his size and demeanor.
After a tearful goodbye to Balloo we got on the trail by 11 AM.
By 11:10 we missed a critical turn and ended up setting off in the wrong direction. We figured this out pretty soon thereafter but instead of backtracking a quarter of a mile and getting back on the trail, our inner Lewis and Clark told us that we could keep going the way we were going and eventually the main trail had to loop back to the trail we were on.
Our inner Lewis and Clark was wrong.
For the rest of the day we ended walking along a dirt road that didn’t in any way shape or form loop back to the main trail. It wasn’t exactly what we had in mind but the views were stunning and the local people kept telling us we were going the right way each time we asked, so we didn’t let it bother us too much.
Our country road meandered through hillside farms with cows, sheep, chickens, pigs, and goats galore. For me farm animals are like paintings in a museum to a six-year-old. It’s not enough to enjoy their beauty from a distance. There’s always an urge to touch them. “That Picasso sure is pretty. I wonder what it feels like. I’m gonna try to go and touch it.” That’s pretty much how I felt about every sheep I encountered, especially the fluffy ones. Do they feel like giant cotton balls or are they all itchy and gross like the horrible, scratchy wool sweaters my mom made me wear as a kid.
In order to turn these animal dreams into animal realities, I had devised a game and point system the day before where you’d get different points for touching different animals e.g. 50 points if you can pet a cow, 30 points for a sheep, etc.
At the end of our six hour hike learned two things playing this game: (1) animals are not into random people just going up and petting them; (2) animals are terrifying.
Although I made a few feeble attempts I never managed to get any closer than three feet of an animal and ended the game with zero points (2nd place). Brittany tied me in second place (even though I don’t think she was actually playing) and Chuck who pet a single pig too busy snarfing down garbage to notice a hand brush up against his back, won the game with probably the lowest score in the history of anyone who has played this game (it was a game I made up on the spot, but I have to imagine it’s been played at least a billion times before by other country road passers-by).
About four hours into what was supposed to be a six-hour hike we came across a vast and beautiful canyon, whereupon we remarked about just how vast and beautiful it was.
“Look at how big this canyon is. It’s insane that we get to hike along something something so beautiful.”
Then we hit an unmarked hairpin turn in the trail. Chuck asked if we should take it.
“No. That can’t be the right way.” I said. “It would kind of be a dick move to put a hairpin turn in the trail without putting up signs indicating where it goes. Let’s keep going straight.”
We walked about twenty minutes more before running into some locals walking. down the road in the other direction.
“Are we going the right way to Chugchilan?”
“No, you need to turn around. I’ll show you where you need to turn,” one of them says.
We walked twenty minutes back in the other direction and of course he pointed us to the hairpin turn.
He leads us up to a cliff edge where he points down into the canyon and then across to the other side where there is a switchback trail.
In contrast to the farm animals, the big beautiful, vast canyon was something I was fully prepared to enjoy from a distance. Yet here we were about to enter it. (Is that irony? I think it might be. Truthfully, I never really know how to use the word irony property in a sentence but I’m going to venture out on a limb here and say “how ironic.”)
We asked the kind farmer how long it would take to get to Chugchilan. “One hour” he responded.
Um…sure. Maybe in a fighter jet.
The next few hours were not as bad as they looked.
The switchback trail down the mountain eventually led us to a river and a half finished bridge we had to cross.
The up portion of the canyon and into town was long but doable. As we started our ascent we asked another local farmer if we were going in the right direction.
“Yes,” he said. “Turn left at the next opportunity and a trail will take you up the mountain.”
Out of curiosity, I asked how much longer till we get to Chugchilan.
“About one hour.”
After probably another hour and half we finally arrived at our hostel, The Black Sheep Inn.
Exhausted, we couldn’t have been happier to get there. There were cookies and cake out when we arrived. I had some cake and asked the innkeeper, Edmundo where I could pay. “Oh, no. The cake is free. Take as much as you want.”
Chuck had been here before and had raved about how great it was. I couldn’t have told you how the rest of the hostel was at this point, but I have to admit, I was pretty into the idea of free cake.