Breathtaking Quilotoa: staggering horses on the edge of a volcano.
(Find out what happened before, in:¨The Single Knob for automatic hot water. Uh-huh. Really.¨)
¨Excuse me, mister, are you sure that I won´t crash into the crater together with your horse any moment now? He seems to be really tired…¨ I´m sitting on the swaying back of a snorting and sweating horse that stands still every five minutes to catch a breath. We´ve almost arrived the top of the crater, and I imagine that I would ask that question and that the man would say: ¨yeah sure, no worries, you´ll both be fine.¨ As in: ¨sure, I know the way,¨ or ¨sure, that´s the normal price,¨ or ¨sure, tomorrow morning we´ll have water again. Hot water.¨ I hold on to that last thought when my staggering quadruped and I are both getting ready for the next narrow hairpin bend with sand and loose stones steeply uphill.
On our way down on the same path we were able to ¨sandsurf¨ the main part of the route (I don´t know if that exists, but here you can do it :D), but that seems to be a lot less fun than on our way down earlier.
But, staggering horse or not, sandsurfing down on high speed or slowly strolling down the slope: the views from all points of the crater are breathtaking and the green-blue water of the Quilotoa lake that fills the volcano makes every spectator want to become one with the silence that prevails.
It was only half an hour in a truck from Zumbahua, but our visit to the market seems to be much further away than that. After my creative-with-a-plastic-bottle shower session that morning, we had left the hostel at seven. Soon after that we realized that we missed out on the animal market: here and there we saw goats and pigs tied to a fence, a car or a streetlight and we passed a group of sheep attached to a parked bus with a rope. This was one of the first markets that was mostly there for the indigenous people from the village itself and its surroundings. Whole families in traditional clothes walked down the hill towards the market square where people were already negotiating the price of mandarins, scarfs, chickens, candy or getting your trousers fixed.
After a desayuno continental with rice and roasted chicken early in the morning, we strolled around the stalls looking for a sweater, batteries and fruit for our trip to the lake. And even there at the busy market square we could feel the silence and tranquility of the surroundings.
And now we thus find ourselves in the middle of it, even though ¨tranquile¨ and ¨peaceful¨ don´t seem to be not very appropriate to describe are kamikaze horse ride back up the steep slope. But everyone arrives safely up on the edge again. ¨Perfectly in time for the bus to Chungchilán,¨ sais the owner of the horse rental, ¨it leaves at two. But be sure that you´re there about half an hour early, because usually there´s a bunch of people standing in line there. Oh oh, Ecuadorian lines. Where? At the crossroads where the bus passes. ¨Oh yeah, tsss… Ecuador and bus stops. In the meantime it has started raining, so we wait with cookies and a card game until it´s time to go.
There isn´t a bunch of people waiting in line on the crossroads. There´s nobody. Sitting on a stone we enjoy ourselves singing Simon and Garfunkel classics to keep ourselves warm. And then a truck stops next to us. ¨The bus has already left! Get in, for twenty five dollars I´ll take you all to Chungchilán.¨ Eerm… would it be true that the bus has left already? Not that the six of us are willing to pay twenty five dollars for a less-than-an-hour ride, especially because there´s no space inside anymore, so we´d all have to sit in the back. ¨It´s cold. And it rains! For 1,50 we´ll get in.¨ The man shakes his head. ¨It doesn´t rain where we´re going…¨ Yeah, sure, that helps a lot. But after a few ¨very last¨ offers we climb into the back of the truck for 1,50 and we go to sit as close to each other as possible to fight the cold. Bloody Ecuadorians: ¨The bus leaves at two…¨ But it doesn´t rain anymore indeed, and the views from the trunk are much better than from any other bus that would have taken us there. And we enjoy the fact that we can fully take in the smells and the colors and the vastness of the environment while sitting in that truck.
After three quarters of an hour we suddenly stop and stand still for an unusual long time. Then the driver gets out of the car and looks at us questioning. ¨Up to where did you guys want to go?¨ To Chunchilán. ¨That´s where we are.¨ Oooh, hey, that´s a pity! We climb out of the truck, pay the man and go to look for a hostel. Would there be one with water? Hot water? Who knows… who knows…
That was fun. Hopefully we soon miss a bus again. We probably will. :D