We had booked ourselves an AirBnB in Quito over the holidays and had a few days left to kill before heading into the city. We decided to visit Mindo and ran into our overland friends Megan & Tyler (and Marley).
We enjoyed catching up, but didn’t enjoy Mindo. The rain didn’t help our impression of the town, but it was just so Meh… Not much hiking to do other than along the road, or else join tours which isn’t often our thing. So we left after a couple nights to find better spots to spend the next days.
First up was Cascada Machay. Free camp site and easy, flat hike to a beautiful waterfall.
Laguna de Secas
Our next destination was within Antisana NP and doesn’t have any camping available, so we stayed just outside at a cute hotel/camping area above Laguna de Secas. The owners welcomed us with tea served out of some sort of animal horn with a shot of sugar cane liquor poured from a bottle made of an animal hoof. They also had a short hiking trail on their property, so we took Mitzi and enjoyed the walk.
Laguna de Micacocha
Here’s that lake in Antisana NP that it turns out doesn’t even let you drive in with your dog! They don’t even want you to leave them in the car. Never mind that there are cows grazing all over the NP grounds, don’t want a dog sitting inside a car in a parking lot. Well we kind of think that is ridiculous, so we hid Mitzi at Rachels feet as we passed the guard gate and would play dumb Gringos if anyone noticed. Laguna de Micacocha is actually a reservoir but the short hike above it offered great views to Antisana and a clouded in Cotopaxi. And Mitzi waited quietly in the car as cows stomped, grazed and pooped all over.
We spent Christmas holidays in Quito and enjoyed the luxuries of a city apartment close to good restaurants and coffee shops. We did a little bit of sightseeing in the old town, which was beautiful and full of last minute holiday shoppers! We were invited to a Christmas Eve party from another Swiss traveler Yasmin, who has settled for a year in Quito, and her Venezuelan roommates’ extensive friend network. It was nothing like a Christmas celebration back home – It’s a big loud party that goes on all night! We headed home at 1:30am and the little kids were still going strong. Christmas Day we spent with Megan and Tyler and had a lovely dinner with Christmas music, movies and dogs. It was fun to have both types of celebration.
Towering above Quito is the mountain Rucu Pichincha. The trail to the top starts at the top of the Quito cable car, at 4000m. Then another 700m elevation gain and a bit of scrambling you reach the peak! We went on a Saturday so had quite the crowd.
Cotopaxi National Park
We spent a couple days around New Years Eve at Cotopaxi National Park. We were partied out from Christmas and wanted to avoid the inevitable onslaught of fireworks for Mitzi’s sake. We did a two shorter hikes, including one to the glacier’s edge at 5100m, and explored the park a bit on foot and by car. We had a silent New Years Eve with only one other camper around and were in bed by 9pm!
Quilotoa and Surroundings
The crater lake Quilotoa and the surrounding villages are a popular trekking destination for backpackers. We decided to experience a part of it by car by hitting a couple highlights. First was the Llullu llama lodge north of Quilotoa. We did a day hike from the lodge and enjoyed the atmosphere of the lodge. The views were great and the other travelers were fun to chat with. The wind was really strong there when we arrived, so for the first time in over a year we had to sleep “downstairs” in the Landy and keep the roof down! From Llullu Llama we headed to the Crater Lake Quilotoa with the plan to hike the full rim trail. The wind here was even worse, and after an hour of getting pelted by sand and nearly knocked over, we turned around. We weren’t enjoying ourselves, and honestly the view doesn’t change much as you go!
After a third trip into Quito for more car related stuff, we headed to the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Pasochoa for some more hiking and free camping. The trail was steep, then narrow, then steep and narrow. But the views were great and worth the steep hike!
Unfortunately it was here that our refrigerator crapped out and stopped cooling. So, we were in for a fourth (and hopefully FINAL) trip into Quito.