Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chugchilan to Latacunga- Last leg of the Quilotoa Loop

The day started with a round of Happy Birthday by the collection of backpackers at the breakfast table. It was going along nicely until the third line when most of the chorus realised that they either didn't know or had forgotten my name.

Leaving Chugchillan is not a simple process. There are very few busses and the they leave long before the sun comes up. The transport leaving at the least unGodly hour is the 9am milk truck, a ute which trundles along the loop collecting the cow's morning handiwork, and selling it to those who don't have basic bovine services. The truck also collects backpackers and locals to drop them off in Sigchos, who then await an afternoon bus back to the noise and smell of the 21st century in full swing.

The empty spot on the rear bumper was my 'seat'

We climbed into the truck's tray, which, in typical Ecuadorian style appeared to be holding well over a sensible amount of cargo. But the overcrowding really began soon after, when the payload reached Indian rail proportions. At full capacity, the ute was carrying 19 adults, 1 child, 8 gas cylinders, the milk drum, 6 backpacks and a 7 month old child. I was relegated to perching on the back bumper, while Angie was secured between a couple of elderly Ecuadorian women and a French backpacker.

On a particularly severe right curve, g-force took a viscous hold, and before I understood what was happening, I had been thrown from my foothold in a pirouetting flurry of flailing limbs. I hit the dirt running, but couldn't manage more than two steps before curling into a dusty ball tumbling along the road. I was unharmed, and ran after the truck, which graciously stopped to let me back on. Angie was a little shaken at the sight of me rolling around like that, but the locals thought it was fantastic sport, and kept laughing and looking at me for the rest of the uneventful, nervous, one and half hour journey.

The trip from Sigchos to Latacunga was by more conventional means (bus), but the journey changed form an easy two-hours into a four-hour zigzag marathon when it turned out the main road was closed. We spent lots of nervous time backing and filling around sandy single lane switchbacks, intently listening to every squeak and groan of the brakes; the last defence between us and a couple of hundred vertical metres of pure, clean, empty air. The scenery was again, spectacular, but it is difficult to enjoy when the vantage point is a struggling bus on a goat track.

No comments: