Still in the Central Andes, we set off to stay a couple of days near the volcanic crater Lake Quilotoa [6] for some hiking.  The bus struggled as it climbed to some 3800 metres, crossing the páramo – the high plain where onions, beans and potatoes are grown.  The air was cold and clear.  Small pens held sheep and a few cows and llamas grazed.  People in bright clothing were working in their fields.  It was the most beautiful scenery.  Buses and food in Ecuador are cheap and we enjoy travelling on the local buses, watching people in traditional dress getting on and off.


Our first look down into the turquoise crater lake was from the rim at 3850 meters.  The next day we walked 400 meters lower inside the crater to the water´s edge, struggling a bit due to the altitude – 45 minutes down and 1 hour up.  Sadly, while we were there, a young Canadian tourist fell to his death whilst trying to walk around the rim of the crater without a guide.


Saturday is market day in Zumbahua, about 10 kilometres away.  People selling everything from alpacas to zucchinis and all dressed in their finest packed the town plaza.  There was a woman in her market-best skirt and blouse with a beautifully hand embodied shawl, knee high white socks …. and 4 inch heels, dragging a squealing pig through the mess.  It was the most colourful market we´ve seen.  All the people in this region are indigenous, speak Quechua (the language of the Incas) and are proud of their heritage.


It was such a nice, peaceful and beautiful area we decided to stay another day and hike the 12 kilometres from Quilotoa to Chugchilán [7], one of the most beautiful walks in Ecuador.  Our local guide Alissia, dressed up with handbag, stockings and high heel shoes set a cracking pace.  It took 4:30 hours following the crater rim, descending to the village of Guyama to cross Rio Sihui canyon and the tough climb up to the tiny village of Chugchilán where we spent the night.


After a day we would rather forget, we arrived in Baños [8], a touristy town of hostels and adventure tour operators.  The small village lies in another lovely fertile valley just below the highly active Tungurahua Volcano.  Salasaca [9] is a little indigenous town nestled in the mountains near Baños.  In addition to their characteristic clothing – men wear long black ponchos and women dress in naturally dyed bayetas (a type of female poncho) and black anakus (wrap-around skirts) – the community is known for its weaving style which is unlike any other in the world.  It is thought that these people might be descendants of slaves bought from Bolivia by the Incas.


Quilotoa Crater Lake

Villagers returning from town

Two pretty señoritas

Countryside around Quilotoa

Baby alpaca

Twin Iliniza Volcanoes behind Quilotoa

Saturday afternoon get together at the rim of the crater

Zumbahua Saturday market

Shopping at Zumbahua market

People eating at the market

Alissia, our local guide, setting off to Chugchilán

Looking back at the Rio Sihui canyon from Chugchilán

Tungurahua Volcano near Baños


Handmade toffee is a speciality of Baños

Jaguar at the little Baños zoo

Strange bird at the zoo

Women of Salasaca spinning wool for weaving