I had heard that you should not do the hike from Quilotoa (3900m) to Tigua (3500m) without a guide as it is very difficult to find the right way, but I had also heard it is possible to do the hike alone, but you must ask people you see along the way for direction. I decided to do the hike alone, but without a map and description it was not easy. For Isinliv´- Chugchilán I had a simple map with description, and for Chugchilán - Quilotoa I had a simple map. And for both those walks I knew the direction more or less, for example you can see the top of the Quilotoa crater from Chugchilán, even if it is far away. For the hike between Quilotoa and Tigua I didn’t know anything, only that you follow the crater rim for a while in the beginning.
When I saw someone outside their house or in their field I asked for direction, but there were not always people around and if there was a fork in the path I had to choose which one to take. A few times I turned around to go back and take another path. I walked down and up two deep canyons and around mountains. After 5.5 hours I came to something that looked like a village and I asked I woman for the direction. She said that that village was a part of Tigua, called something I can’t remember. I thought I must be close and followed the dirt road. It took ages as the dirt road was winding up to the main road.
I had already heard that Posada de Tigua is situated a few km from Tigua, but I had hoped to get something to eat in the village and to visit the art gallery where they sell Tigua paintings. How wrong I was. Tigua is not a proper village, but a very spread out community, so I didn’t see a place to eat, and the gallery was situated even further away than Posada de Tigua from where I reached the main road.
When I finally reached the main road (Latacunga - Zumbahua) I had no idea if I should take left or right and had to go down a path to ask some people working in their field. I got the right direction and now there was a few km more to walk, but this time along the main road, and it had also started to rain. I reached Posada de Tigua 7h after I left the hostel in Quilotoa. It had been a long walk, which definitely had been shorter if I had walked with a guide, but I don’t regret walking alone. When I reached Posada de Tigua I could see that ”as the crows fly” it was not too far from where I had been 1.5 hours earlier, but the question is if there had been another way getting past the canyon.
Since I came home I have looked at Google Earth to figure out the way I took and too see if there was a better one. It is hard to say as the landscape is full of canyons, rivers and mountains and I don’t know were it is possible to pass and there is no strait path.
Posada de Tigua is situated 800 metres down from the main road, so after breakfast, when it was time to leave, I took my bag and started to walk up to the road. About halfway, when I passed a house, two angrily barking dogs came running after me. I took up a stone and threw it near them and they luckily turned around.
Up on the main road I waited about 15-20 minutes for a bus to pass. From Tigua to Latacunga I paid $1.00 (July 2011) and the journey took over an hour, maybe 1.5 hour.
In Latacunga the bus stopped on the west side of the river, next to a big supermarket. I could see the bridge over the river and decided it would not be to far to walk to Hostal Tiana from there. Otherwise a taxi within Latacunga is $1.00
One option, if you stay at Posada de Tigua and want to visit the market in Zumbahua early in the morning, is to walk the 800 metres up to the main road in the dark and wait for an early bus. Another option is to take a private transport from the posada, and that is what I and a Dutch couple did. We shared the price of $20 (July 2011) one way and left Tigua at 5.45 in the morning. We had been told that it takes 15 minutes to Zumbahua, but when we were dropped of by the animal market, which is further down than the rest of the market around the main square, it was almost 6.30.
Going back to Tigua, to have a late breakfast and pick up my bags, I took a bus. First I thought I would have to walk up to the main road, but just one block from the main square a bus heading for Latacunga was waiting and it was going to leave in 5 - 10 minutes. To Tigua I paid $0.50. The Dutch couple were on the same bus. Soon after we had started our walk down to the posada from the main road, Marco from the posada passed us with his pick up and we got a lift.
People around Tigua have painted drums and masks used at festivals for many generations, but it was not until the 1970s that they started to make paintings to sell. It all started when a foreigner was interested in buying an old drum from Julio Toaquiza, a young man from the area. He later got the idea to paint on flat canvases made by sheepskin. And as it turned out well he taught his relatives and neighbours how to paint as well.
The Tigua paintings are very colourful and often painted on sheepskin. The motifs are scenes from different Quichua legends, festivals and religious ceremonies. It is also common with scenes depicting the daily life, like farming and weaving, of the people in the high Andes around Tigua. The condor, sheep or llamas are common animals in the paintings and in the surrounding landscape the Vulcan Cotopaxi can often be seen.
When I hiked to Tigua, from Quilotoa, I had hoped to visit the community gallery in Tigua, Galería Tigua - Chimbacucho. Unfortunately Tigua is a very spread out community and I was many kilometres away from the gallery when I reached Posada de Tigua where I was going to stay. The gallery is situated at Km 53 along the Latacunga - Zumbahua road.
But Tigua paintings, of different quality, can be found in galleries, souvenir stores or at markets all over Ecuador. And when I saw the painting in the picture, in a shop in Quito, I knew I wanted to have that one. It reminded me very much of the week when I hiked in the Quilotoa area and one morning in Quilotoa the sun was shining in the same position over Laguna Quilotoa as in the painting and the two tops of Iliniza Norte and Iliniza Sur could also be seen behind the rim of the crater. Now it hangs on the wall just above my computer!
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. 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.
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).