Warning: picture-heavy post ahead. #sorrynotsorry!
So after getting thoroughly lost two days before and enjoying a low-key day-trip the day after that, we finally hit the road again. The day started out promisingly enough: with plenty of sunshine and full stomachs.
Not exactly a walk in the park, but I’d take this any day – strolling along with no other soul in sight, and not a sound to be heard but our own footsteps.
The white cliffs below were one of the landmarks in our directions. Can you spot the trail?
New animal sighting along the way: a baby goat, watched over by its canine friends. Bring on the heart eyes emojis! 😍
Also spotted: a brightly-painted sheep (I wonder what the occasion was!).
And a couple of horses grazing near the all-important sign that we were on the right track. Can you spot it?
Don’t try this while drunk…
The bridge crossing took us aback. According to the directions, we were to cross the river using a log bridge with a wire handrail – but there was no wire! This was the widest log bridge for miles, though, so we figured this was it.
It may look like an easy crossing to you now, but there was something unnerving about doing it with nothing to hold on to and nothing to stop you from falling into the rushing river.
Thankfully, we made it to the other side without losing anyone. Cue the first fist pumps of the day!
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side. It started raining during our lunch break, which resulted in a mad scramble for rain gear and a hasty departure.
“Do you have any food?”
We walked past this little girl’s house and she literally came running out to meet us.
But before you go “awww, how cute!” – it quickly became clear that she wasn’t interested in us for our charming personalities or winsome good looks (shocker, right?). She had one, and only one, thing on her mind – food!
She unabashedly asked for food and my hiking buddy Katie, being the incredibly kind-hearted person that she is, promptly gave her one of her snacks. She continued holding her hand out, though, and Katie ended up offloading a lot of snacks.
Now, it could just be me being far more sceptical than she is, but that girl doesn’t exactly look malnourished, does she?
My own take is that she had become accustomed to hikers on that path and had learned to take advantage of their generosity.
She wasn’t the only such kid we encountered, either. Later on, we met other adorable kids who followed us around and asked for food (and/or money). I even had grown men ask me for food!
One particularly enterprising guy asked for “donations” to improve a lookout point (mirador) which he said was on his land but allowed people to use for free.
He said he wanted to paint the fences and build a lid for the trash can, which dumpster-diving dogs kept knocking over.
Again, I was pretty sceptical and didn’t give him anything, but Katie’s husband kindly gave him a few bucks. (My husband doesn’t understand Spanish, so nobody approached him – a blessing in disguise, maybe!)
Looking back, I’m not sure if I would stand by my decision a second time. Perhaps if I hadn’t been taking a career break (i.e. unemployed), I would’ve been less tightfisted.
Nobody likes to be scammed. But if in doubt, isn’t it better to err on the side of generosity? Goodness knows those villagers could probably have used a few extra bucks. More so than most of us who have the means for overseas travel!
Nonetheless, these incidents made me realise that the Quilotoa Loop is not quite as off-the-beaten-path as it might seem.
Sure, you can walk for hours through breathtaking landscapes and not see another soul. But when you do, you can expect that the locals you meet will be well-prepared for tourists.
How do I describe spotting the sign for your destination after almost 7 hours of hiking?
We spent the night at Cloud Forest Hostal, which cost just $15 per person. Breakfast and dinner included!
And of course, hot showers. (At an altitude of 3200m, cold showers are a definite no-go for me.)
It was worth every penny.
Distance covered: 13.7km in 6.5h.
Over to you! What are your thoughts on giving food/money to people you meet when travelling?
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