I arrived in Quilotoa around 5:30pm before sunset (thank God) because it was absolutely freezing from the wind chill and about to get dark! The bus ride to the laguna was absolutely stunning though...surrounded by beautiful mountains and farms with tons of cattle (mostly sheep, goats, and cows) wandering around all over the place. The biggest difference I noticed with the locals coming on and off the bus and even on the sidewalks were the indigenous men and women wearing artisanal clothing with bright red/purple cheeks (by the intense sun that constantly burn their cheeks, and probably the wind chill too). Being in Ecuador in general it has been difficult to figure out what to wear because the sun is so strong and the wind is so intense that you can be really hot one minute and then a wind chill comes along and it’s freezing another minute. I only had to walk 5 minutes to my hostel from where the bus just happened to stop/drop me and this one other person off in this small town. As I approached the hostel I was greeted by this Ecuadorian man who was really sweet and there was a German family sitting playing cards by the fireplace. The man's little boy came into the living room as I was trying on an alpaca sweater and he was the cutest little rounded red cheeked boy I had ever seen. I enjoyed spending some time with the boy and purchasing a warm alpaca sweater (I think it was like $10 maybe). I was in a suburban mountain cabin vibe at last!
I checked in and got my private room upstairs and wanted to go to see the laguna but it was already starting to get dark and the hostel owner told me it wasn't a good idea so I decided to just chill out and settle in. Dinner was at 7pm (included in the price) and I sat at a small table with a French man who was really sweet (he was the only other guest besides the German family). He had come to Ecuador with his bike and his girlfriend was coming to meet him (it was his 40th birthday). We talked a lot about Ecuador and my travels from Costa Rica so far and where we were in life and jobs and countries (the normal solo traveler lingo). It was a nice meal that started out with soup and then rice, lentils and chicken (I think because I'm writing this a week later and can't completely remember). After the meal they gave us my first try of canelazo drink (an Ecuadorian hot alcoholic drink) which I saw in Quito but hadn't tried it yet. It was really yummy and tasted like tea but with fruit and tasted somewhat like cinnamon. On top of that the host family gave us this liquor shot which I tried and we both put in our teas to give it a kick. It was a lovely conversation, and then I was tired so I went to bed after relaxing in my warm alpaca sweater.
The next day I went to the laguna and was completely taken back by my first site of it. It was absolutely breathtaking from a distance starting with the size of the body of water in the middle, aqua/turquoise blue water color and dark steep round cliff surrounding. It was super windy so it was a really cold since the sun wasn't as bright at first but started to warm up as I started to walk down the path to get to the bottom. There were Ecuadorians walking their donkeys/horses down so that people later on could ride them back up. It took me about 30 minutes to walk down and I sat and meditated a while and enjoyed the peace and quiet. It felt nice to feel the water and I enjoyed the scenery for a bit and then I headed back up because I needed to catch the afternoon bus and check out by noon. It was actually a very intense hike back up because of the elevation (3000m above sea level) and steepness, as well as the weather in general. I kept having to remove layers and take breaks because I was getting so hot. There were more and more people coming down because it was late morning at this point and on the weekend so the path was getting crowded which was annoying to have to pass by so many people on my way up as I was out of breath the whole time and dust flying everywhere. I arrived at the top and to my surprise saw an alpaca for the first time and had fun petting it for a while! On the walk back to the hostel I saw this corn on the grill and warm drink being offered so I got a corn and another canelzo and sat in this indigenous woman's house while her kids were running around. It was a nice post-hike snack and warm local experience with the cheese and white corn on the cob.
I showered packed up and thankfully the hostel mom was able to pack a to-go lunch for me which was this hamburger (without a bun) basically. I arrived to the bus on right on time and it was about a 4 hour bus ride to Banos.