The road to Zumbahua
This morning, Patrick and I embarked upon our two-day sojourn from Baños, up to the Quilotoa Loop area. The "Quilotoa Loop" is a ring of road and villages that begins and ends at the town of Latacunga, which is about 2 hours north of Baños (by bus). The most important spots on the loop are: Laguna Quilotoa itself, a massive lagoon that sits inside an ancient volcano crater; and Chugchilán, a village north of the lagoon, with great day-hiking (or horse-riding, whatever floats ye' boat) in the area around. Our journey began with a bus up the nice highway, from Baños to Latacunga; and then another bus along the crazily winding mountain road, from Latacunga to the village of Zumbahua.
Since we're only planning to be up in the Quilotoa area for two days, we decided to leave our big backpacks in the storeroom at Patty, which we checked out of this morning. Then, it was a quick breakfast (at one of Baños's fine breakfast cafés, serving fruit salad and granola with yoghurt), and onto the 9am bus up to Quito. We zoomed up the road to Quito, which is an excellent-quality highway, and which is serviced by regular, comfortable buses. Two hours later, we hopped off at the Latacunga stop, and let the bus continue on its merry way up north.
The bus from Latacunga to Zumbahua, on the other hand, is not a great road at all. It is — remarkably — paved all the way. However, it's extremely windy, going up and down and around through the rolling hills; and the buses travel it at nauseatingly high speeds. Patrick and I had the added discomfort of not even getting a seat: in true South American style, it was standing room only. The trip was so bad, that people were throwing up on the bus, and the conductor was handing out little plastic bags for people to vomit into.
These Ecuadorians are weak $h#ts — I've been on hundreds of worse buses in Peru and Bolivia, and I never once saw a local be sick, or heard a local voice any complaint, in all my time down in those countries.
Village of Zumbahua.
Anyway, we made it to Zumbahua by about 12:30pm. Zumbahua is a teeny town (south of the lagoon), surrounded by an endless expanse of farms and countryside, with not much to see. Not many tourists really stop there: most go straight to the lagoon, or they visit the lagoon from Chugchilán (which is on the north side of it). We stopped here for a little while, to grab a bite of lunch (from the only restaurant in town, ordering the only thing on their menu — gotta love the wide selection round here!). Then, we eventually gave in to one of the offers from the many locals in town, and accepted a ride in a pickup truck over to the lagoon.