In 2011 I had followed a description from Llullu Llama and I know I would have found the same way in 2012 without problems, but I had heard there was another way and was interested in taking that. I thought it would be possible to walk over the hills and cross Rio Toach by the suspension bridge. However I was told before I set out that I should not fallow the road (which goes to Guantualo), but turn to a path after crossing the stream in the valley. Well I started to walk the dirt road (last year there had just been a path) down to the stream and suddenly it just ended by a field. I crossed the field and didn’t find the proper path, but anyway I knew the direction so it was easy. Last year I hadn’t crossed the bridge here but now I did. I had been told to take a path soon after the bridge and I saw one going up on the ridge just on the other side of the bridge. I thought it was too early and walked on for a while. I took the next path and met two women and asked them about the way to Chugchilán. They told me to follow the path up to the road, and they also told me not to follow the road, but to take a path on my right. I came up to the road, but didn’t see a path. Later on I saw a small path that seemed to lead out on a field so I didn’t take it. I followed the road for a while (which I was not supposed to do) and when I saw a path and I thought I had found the right one. It turned out though, that it was just a shortcut and I came up on the road again. There was no one around to ask and when I later came to a small road turning right I took it. The road became a path and started to go down towards Río Toachi. I passed a house where both the man and woman came over to shake my hand. I asked for a bridge to cross the river and they told me to continue the path down. After a while I saw the same log-bridge I had crossed the previous year. I was not surprised as I had been going in a loop around the hill.
I crossed the log-bridge and now followed the same path as the previous year. The path follows Rio Toachi and shortly after the suspension bridge you shall take a path leading up to Itualo, a small village (there is no sign). From Itualo there is a very steep ascend to Chinalo (this part took about half an hour). From Chinalo you will follow a small dirt road that will take you up to the Chugchilan road (at this point there is now a sign pointing down the dirt road, saying "Isinliví 11.3km"). And then there is another 2km to walk. Until then it had been warm, but up on the Chugchilán road it started to be very windy and I had to put on my fleece.
I had not taken the best way in the beginning, but I got to see new sceneries. The whole hike took me 4h 15minutes. Later, when I have looked at maps I realize I could have followed the road all the way to Guantualo (it is not as far as I thought), and from there I could have followed a path down to the suspension bridge. It is a longer walk, but the walk I would have liked to do.
At Llullu Llama in Isinliví you can get a simple map and description of the way to Chugchilan. There are more than one way you can take, but I chose the one on the map.
After a good and big breakfast I left Isinliví at 9am. Just outside Llullu Llama the path begins and it goes down to Cumbijin Stream. There I turned right ( I did not cross the bridge here )and after a while I crossed the stream on a smaller bridge. From here the path continued above the stream. It was a bit uphill and downhill and level walking. I tried to follow the description, but was not sure all the time that I was on the right track. At one point four angry barking dogs appeared on the path. I had to go back and wait for a while, but luckily they didn’t appear when I tried to pass again. Then the path went down to Rio Toachi and I walked along the river until I came to a log-bridge where I crossed the river. Later on I passed a suspension-bridge and just after this bridge there is a path going uphill. Between the small villages Itualo and Chinalo the ascend is very, very steep. From the village Chinalo there is a small dirt road, eventually leading up to the Chugchilan road. It is a very beautiful walk and there are many stunning views along the hike.
I didn’t see many people along the way. After one hour I met three girls on a horse and a little bit later I saw a man on a horse, on the other side of the river. In the villages Itualo and Chinalo a saw a few people and also when I came up to the Chugchilan road.
On the paper with the description and map it said that the hike would take between 4h - 6h. For me it took 3h and 45 minutes until I arrived at Hostal Cloud Forest in Chugchilán. I was walking alone so I did not stop to chat with friends and I never sat down during the walk, but I stopped many times to take photos, drink water or eat some chocolate. The first day I was in Isinliví three people arrived to the hostel just after dark. They had got lost on the way from Chugchilan and therefore the hike had taken them 7h.
Most people only stay a night in Isinliví on their way to or from Chugchilán. I did not want to be in a rush and thought it could be nice to stay in this small tranquil village for two nights and do some hiking nearby one day. I had not planed to visit the festival in Sigchos, but I’m glad I did. I still had some time for hiking when I came back. At Llullu Llama I found the description for the hike up to the hill Cerro Nahuire outside the village. The description worked well in the beginning, but then I ended up by a house on the other side of the hill and had probably gone too far. I turned around and after a while, when I heard a dog barking ahead of me, I started to walk steeply uphill. The walk up to the top took 40 minutes and from there it was a great view of the surrounding green mountains. I took another way down.
At Llullu Llama I had also found descriptions for walks starting at the path behind the church. I wanted to try that path too, but as I have written in my Danger and Warning tip I was hindered by some angry dogs. So instead I took the short walk up to Pucará, the small hill in the village, where there used to be a pre-Colombian hill fort in ancient times. And then I went to the shop and bought a beer which I brought to Llullu Llama (there was no one at the hostel but me, so I couldn’t have bought one there) and than I sat in the lovely garden reading.
On Saturdays the bus from Latacunga to Isinliví leaves at 11am, other days it leaves at 13. The bus leaves from the bus terminal in Latacunga, except on Thursdays when it leaves from Saquisilli. One of the guys from Hostal Tiana was going to Isinliví with fruits and vegetables, and an armchair, so I got a ride to the terminal in the back of the truck. At the terminal the Isinliví bus was already standing there and I went on board , took a seat and paid $2 (July 2011) for the ticket. When the bus left the terminal it was full, and along the way it got packed. The ride to Isinliví took 2.5 hours. In Isinliví the bus stopped at the square, near the church, and then it went down to Hostal Llulu Llama, so it was easy to unload all the things going to the hostel.
Uppdate 2012: I had planed to take the bus at 13.00 and I arrived at the terminal in good time because I remember the bus filled up quickly last year. At the terminal I went over to the counter where it said Isinliví on a sign. It was 12.15 and the man said it was a bus leaving that moment. I asked if it was a direct bus and he said yes. I bought the ticket, which was $2.50 (July 2012) and the man took me to the bus. There I saw that it said Sigchos/Iisinliví in the window of the bus and I realised it was not a direct bus. I asked if that bus, or the direct bus at 13, would arrive first. I was told that they would arrive around the same time. To Sigchos it took around 2h and to Isinliví another half an hour. We arrived first, because I saw the direct bus arrive around 15 minutes later.
There was going to be a festival in Sigchos on the Sunday, and the volunteer from Llullu Llama, Glady’s who also works there and her children were all going. So we, all the tourists, decided to go as well. To be sure to get a ticket for the bus we went to the village square after dinner to buy a ticket each. The driver and the other man working on the bus were in the bus, and it seemed they were going to sleep there. A ticket was $0.75 (July 2011).
The bus was supposed to leave at 7am, but while we were having breakfast, at 6.40, there was a knock on the door of the hostel and it was the man from the bus saying we had to hurry up because we were leaving now. We quickly went to the village square were the bus waited. It was absolutely full and difficult to get inside. I actually had a seat number, but there were other people on the bus who needed that seat more. The bus ride to Sigchos took 45 minutes.
I was the only tourist going back to Isinliví that day, as the others were continuing to other destinations. We did not know when the buses were leaving, but when we in the early afternoon looked for the buses to ask for departure times, a bus to Isinlívi was just going to leave, and I decided to take it. Once again it was absolutely full, but this time I got a seat in the front, next to the driver. So this time I could see the beautiful landscape.
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After the festival in Sigchos I did some hiking around Isinliví. After hiking up to Cerro Nahuire I wanted to take the path starting behind the church. It is the grassy path in the picture, but I didn’t get further than the curve in the end. Then two angry barking dogs blocked the path. There were no stones to pick up and throw towards them , but I’m not sure I would have done that anyway when they were so angry and slowly came towards me. And the house was probably empty as many villagers were still in Sigchos. I turned around and walked back down to the village.
The same thing happened when I was hiking from Isinliví to Chugchilan. After half an hour four barking dogs came running from a house and blocked the path and a fifth was coming from another direction. I backed a bit and waited (because I had to pass). After a while the dogs disappeared and I started to walk quietly and passed the houses. This time the dogs didn’t appear, luckily.
Luggage and bags:
If you are hiking between the villages in the Quilotoa area it is good to leave some of your luggage somewhere else, as you will be hiking for many hours at high altitude. I left many things at Hostal Tiana in Latacunga, where I stayed both before and after visiting the Quilotoa area (2011). I was away for a week. I packed what I needed for that week in my big backpack which has good support around the hips and is comfortable to carry. In the photo you can see the backpack I carried. I also brought a smaller backpack, which is very light and can be folded, to carry around things in when I was in one of the villages, or went on the horseback riding tour and hiked around the Quilotoa crater. When I returned in 2012 I had left some luggage already in Quito, but then I also left some at Hotel Rosim in Latacunga.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Besides my hiking boots, which are very comfortable with good support around the ankles I brought a pair of sandals to use at the hostels. I brought three pair of socks, but also a pair of knitted woollen socks that I had bought in Ecuador, because in places like Quilotoa a pair of ordinary socks was not enough to wear with the sandals, even if I was inside.
I brought three t-shirts, one of them was to sleep in, and one thin long sleeved jumper, a fleece and a woollen sweater. And I brought a thin rain- and wind jacket, but no rain trousers. I brought two pair of trousers though, one pair to hike in and a pair of jeans to wear later during the day (and good to change with if it would rain during the hike). I also had a scarf, a hat and woollen gloves with me.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: In every place I stayed I got a towel, but as I didn’t know that beforehand I had brought a small thin one. I also got a soap in each hostel (except at Llulu Llama in Isinliví). At Posada de Tigua I also got shampoo.
I have got a few small plastic bottles . In the biggest one I brought body lotion, in a smaller one soap, and in two, even smaller ones, I had shampoo and conditioner to be able to wash the hair at one occasion during the week. It is important to bring sun block as the sun is strong at the high altitude. And of course I also had a toothbrush and toothpaste with me. I brought contact lenses for every day, plus a few more, deodorant and a hairbrush. I never travel with a big medical kit, but I brought a few plasters, and a few tablets if I would get a fever or problems with the stomach from food. I didn’t have to use any of them.
Photo Equipment: Be sure to have plenty of space on your memory cards, to have more than you think you will need is better than to have to little space for new photos. I brought both my camera batteries and a charger.
Miscellaneous: Other things I carried in my backpack was sunglasses, copies of a few pages of my guidebook, a book to read, a notebook, a pen, a torch, my passport, my spectacles and water bottles. I also brought a few plastic bags to put things in if the rain was going to pour down (even if I have a cover for the backpack).