Independent travel agency ¨YouNeverKnow¨? Count me in!
(Read what happened before, in: ¨Breathtaking Quilotoa: staggering horses on the edge of a volcano.¨)
¨What do we think, is this too touristic?¨ We just climbed out of the truck of our ¨saver in emergency¨ and now we´re standing with our backpacks in the middle of the only road through the little township of Chunchilán before hostel Cloudforest. The wooden constructions and colorful hammocks look inviting, so we get in to ask how much they charge. We get a room all together, with a bathroom and, yes, hot water (and cold water apparently: two buttons in the shower this time) for 12,50 including breakfast and dinner.
Around the fireplace we make our plans for the next day while sipping on our coffee and hot chocolate. No, no, not ¨or¨, ¨and¨! To recover a bit. Our meeting is brutally interrupted by the discovery of the playroom with pingpong, a pool table, table soccer, a dartboard and a guitar with only five strings. Oh, never grow up. We play table tennis for two hours while the others go for a walk in the rain and those who´ve had a shower come in one by one to tell how great that shower is.
We get back to planning during dinner and we decide to take a truck up to the cheese factory tomorrow morning. ¨One hour by foot,¨ said our host, but different stories taught us that it was ¨thus¨ three hours. And from there we would go to look for the cloud forest with maybe a waterfall, from where we´d walk back to Chunchilán. ¨One hour, downhill,¨ is that a standard phrase here? We count in three hours for the walk, just to be shure that we´ll make it in time for the last bus back to Quito. ¨The bus leaves at two.¨ Oooh, sweet déjà vu. But this time these experienced Quilotoa-travelers are well prepared!
After a short night, the very best shower I´ve had in Ecuador until now, breakfast with coffee and fresh fruit and filling our water bottles, we once again get in a trunk. On our way to a cheese factory up a mountain this time. Wow, what a view! (And aauw, what a bumpy road!)
The cheese factory is actually a little cheese workshop of seven meters by seven meter s and with only two employees. One of them has been working there for thirty years. For a dollar we get a tour, which means that one of the men explains us what they´re doing at that moment and that he answers our questions. They make the local kind of ¨Andean cheese¨ and mozzarella, that they sell in Quito and Guayaquil, but also in Peru, Colombia, and even in the US and Europe. We buy a homemade strawberry ice cream for 25 cents, we thank the men for their time and we´re ready to go and look for the cloud forest with the waterfall.
Technically, finding a forest like that around here shouldn´t be too much of a challenge. One road goes back to where we came from, so the other way should be the way to the forest. Close by. But after walking around between the meadows, huts and cows, we haven´t seen anything that fits the description of a ¨forest¨ in any way. Let´s turn around then, and make our way back to Chungchilán.
The hike is simply wonderful again (walking around here I realize again how limited the language is to describe the experience of being somewhere!), and we get back to Chungchilán with plenty of time left before the bus leaves. But we do want to check again if it really goes at two. Yes, yes, two o´clock. That means we still have time to get something to eat in the market now. We just stand there with a plastic plate with fried fish or egg with potatoes, when we hear that we should run quickly if we still want to get into that bus. So that´s what we do. At half past one.
There are no seats anymore, but if necessary, there´s space for much more people and things in a bus than you´d think would fit in. And we´re used to quite a lot here already. Gladly, after a while more and more seats become available and despite the mist and the rain the bus makes it through the slippery mountain roads safely to Latacunga. Only once we had to drive backwards before a hairpin bend with abyss because there was a bus coming. Not bad at all!
Who thought the line of sixty people before the ticket window in Latacunga was long, the line of people waiting to get into a bus to Quito is about three times as long as that one. Thank God everybody could buy a ticket in the bus, or else the lady behind the window wouldn´t have survived. How many buses are there and when do they leave? ¨Nunca se sabe,¨ says the police officer that keeps an eye on the line. You never know. Ok.
And indeed, I think that that´s a perfect summary of our trip to the Quilotoa loop. Nunca se sabe. Where you have to go, where you´re going or where you´ll end up. If there´s water. Hot or cold. Or both. If there´s a bus coming. And at what time. If there´s a cloud forest at all. And where. How long the walk is. Uphill or downhill. You never now. Grrreat! Count me in for the next one too!