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8 MISTAKES TO AVOID ON THE QUILOTOA LOOP

The high altitude setting, steep inclines of the valleys and lack of signposted directions on the Quilotoa Loop can all cause problems if you haven’t come prepared. Whilst we spent days prepping for this trek, there’s no better teacher than experience. Learn from our errors and avoid these 7 mistakes to ensure you have the best time completing the Quilotoa Loop.

1. OVERPACKING

We weren’t guilty of getting all of the things on this list wrong, but we certainly chose the worst ones to slip up on. The worst one being overpacking.

 

Below is a list of everything I packed for the trip in two sections, a) clothes and toiletries and b) electronics. THIS IS NOT A GUIDE –  if anything this is more of a what not to pack guide.

Clothes and toiletries

  • 4 pairs of socks
  • 4 boxers
  • 1 pair of trainers
  • Long trousers (it’s high altitude so gets cold at night)
  • A jumper
  • 3 gym/work out shirts for trekking
  • 1 pair of gym work out shorts for trekking
  • Swimming clothes
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent
  • Other toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, the usual)

Electronics

 

  • Laptop – a rather weighty 15″ MacBook pro
  • DJI Spark drone with controller, battery and charging kit
  • Phone
  • Headphones
  • Kindle
  • Relevant chargers

Everything above likely weighed between 15-20kg.  This is not acceptable for a multi-day trek.

 

This was probably our third trek during our South American journey and hiking was new to us. Experienced hikers out there will be laughing at our list and so they should be. Because you’re hiking, there’s no need to look or even smell that nice. Pack the essentials; one base layer is probably enough, one warm layer and trousers only if you feel the cold. 

 

After the mistakes made on this trek, we bucked up our ideas an invested in hiking boots, merino wool socks and proper windbreakers. It made our lives easier and our bags lighter, win-win.

2. TRYING TO STAY CONNECTED

Our inability to leave our phones alone, even for a few minutes let alone hours is a huge problem these days.

 

The beauty of travelling is that we can often escape this as our minds are occupied with more important things – enjoying nature, meeting new people etc. This is also compounded by the fact that hostel internet speeds are shoddy at the best of times.

 

However, once we sit down for the evening when the day is done and that tiny drip of WIFI comes through, it’s always nice to reconnect with the world, family and friends.

 

The second mistake we made on the Quilotoa Loop, which links with mistake one, is trying to stay a little too connected and a little too rigid in our routines. Laptops and phones are essential to our work – writing blogs, editing photos and videos, and we thought we could stay on the ball in the evenings and use the free time to work. The added weight of a laptop, charger, and a portable charger added unnecessary weight to our bags.

 

Furthermore, we were so tired after the days trekking that we didn’t even get around to using them in the evening, so we were just carrying around extra dead weight for no reason. That attachment to our laptops also got in the way of just sitting back and enjoying the experience, sitting in a hammock in the evening and watching the sunset over the valley or making new friends in the hostel.

 

Use this three day period to appreciate being disconnected and focus on the experience.

 

Take only the essentials – a camera if you have one and your phone. Charing your phone each night should mean you don’t need to bring a portable charger with you. Keep it simple.

3. STARTING AT QUILOTOA

There are two route options for doing the Quilotoa Loop: starting from Sigchos and ending at Quilotoa, or the reverse.

 

Some people may advocate for doing it the reverse way (Quilotoa > Chugchilan > Isinlivi > Sigchos) but we really wouldn’t. Not that the rest of the trek isn’t incredible, some parts are stunning but Quilotoa is the crème de la crème of the experience and you don’t want to be doing that first.

 

Save the best till last, always. It’s far more motivating this way too.

 

A more detailed plan of the route can be found in our full Quilotoa Loop guide.

4. NOT ACCLIMATISING TO ALTITUDE

If you are coming to Ecuador and planning on doing this trek or any others, then make sure you acclimatise first.

 

Spend a couple of days in Quito to see how you react to the altitude. Then start with a smaller, low-intensity trek somewhere like Otavalo to test how you react to exerting your body at altitude.

 

You don’t want to be suffering from altitude sickness on the first day of the Quilotoa Loop and having to get a bus back to town.

5. SETTING A FAST PACE

The entire loop is c.40km spread across the 3 days. If you set off at a blistering pace you’ll complete each day in a short amount of time.

 

Slow down the pace so you can take in the experience and enjoy the scenery. We’d even recommend joining another group of people that you might meet in the hostel and walking with them to make it a social experience.

 

The objective is not to complete the trek in the shortest amount of time after all. That being said we’d recommend setting off as soon after breakfast as you can to avoid walking too long in the midday sun.

6. NOT PLANNING IN A PREP AND RECOVERY DAY EITHER SIDE

Along with not rushing the trek, don’t rush the entire experience.

 

We took 5 days in total to complete the trek which included a day either side for preparing and resting. You don’t want to be arriving in Latacunga halfway through the day, packing your bag for the trek then hopping on a bus the next morning to start the loop.

 

You also don’t want to finish the loop and then hop on a bus straight away from Quilotoa back to Latacunga. 

 

Take your time, slow down and enjoy it.

 

Your body will thank you. You need the extra days to rest and recover. Going back we would even consider staying one extra day at the crater to do the full loop around it or even extra days in the mountain towns. Attempting to do something this challenging and strenuous in an actual 3-day timeline would be difficult, both for the mind and the body.

7. NOT AVOIDING DOGS

I had the slightly unnerving experience of being bitten by a dog along the loop.

 

Luckily the skin wasn’t broken so there wasn’t an issue but when you’re one day into a three-day trek, miles away from a proper city or hospital, there’s a lot of time to think about the possibilities of rabies.

 

To offer some advice on Rabies, you have two options:

 

  1. Get the rabies shot (recommended)
  2. Don’t get it (not recommended)

The myth is that having the inoculation only gives you 24 hours more respite than the 24 hours you already have if you don’t get the jab.

 

This is only one of the perks. If you are bitten and the dog breaks your skin or indeed licks an open wound, you should seek immediate medical attention. Without the jab you are required to have several injections over 30 days, meaning you should stay in one place and be seen by the same hospital while you are treated, whereas if you have the inoculation, you need two injections over a few days, therefore, speeding up the treatment time.

 

The three days trekking takes you through several remote villages and you may well encounter dogs, both owned and wild. Try to avoid them if they’re barking, it’s not a great sign to begin and always make sure you face them and don’t turn your back on them.

8. NOT USING GOOGLE MAPS/MAPS.ME

Before you set off on the trek make sure you’ve downloaded maps.me as well as the maps for the area. Maps.me is better than google when it comes to recognising trekking paths.

 

Whilst the paths are signposted along the way there are moments when you reach a split in the road and you’re not quite sure which way to go, this is when maps.me becomes a life saver.

 

You can also mark all your hostels on the route before you set off, and the app will track your distance and tell when you’re close for that added boost of support.

The Quilotoa Loop is one of our best memories from our trek. There’s something incredibly rewarding and fulfilling about completing a multi-day trek without a guide. We hope that with these tips, you should be able to avoid some silly and simple mistakes which will make your experience that much better.

 

Check out our full guide with itineraries, hostels and other useful advice for completing the trek here.

 

If you are deciding on where to go next after Quilotoa, then your next logical backpacker destination going south is Baños.

 

If you are heading north then you should be booking yourself in to the Secret Garden Cotopaxi Hostel

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