CHERISH THE AVENUE OF THE VOLCANOES – A MUST HIKE
Cherish the Avenue of the volcanoes could be the best adventure trekking in the central Andes by far. The infinite net of trails around the Quilotoa crater and the Toachi Canyon makes this region a unique place for hikers, backpackers and even mountain bikers. This location gathered the best of a traveller can expect, good trail, indigenous culture, unique BB and incredible photos for your lifetime memories.
Our adventure starts in the small village of Insilvi, located on the east side of the Toachi Canyon, this tiny village it’s surrounded by local dairy farmers. Insilvi has a unique wood workshop named Don Bosco, a world class furniture worked by young local people, definitely worth a visit. The Llullu Llama hostel it’s our stop for the first night, this unique place offers a cozy environment for adventurous nature lovers, built in local style and in harmony with the environment and the community. Llullu Llama it’s a great place to share with other hikers. Now, Llullu Llama has a great Yoga studio!!
Once you are on the trekking, from your first steps you will feel the thin air that only in the Andes can offer, this feeling make your lungs expand and your heart pump pure oxygen, Puro Fuerzon!!! or Pure strength as some said. The descent to the canyon brings you across crop fields where you can say Hi!!! to local farmers who gladly respond “Buenos días” or kids asking for candies, a very common interaction between travellers and local people. In the deep canyon we will meet the Toachi river, our companion for the next kilometers and days since we are going to cross the river several times. The Toachi river in this section of the canyon becomes from a stream to a small size river, but once the Toachi get to steeper slopes heading to the Pacific coast, get real big and perfect for white water rafting.
Chugchilan is the next stop!! After crossing the canyoning and following the river upstream, we find the little village of Itualo Bajo, what’s to be said about this community is that just before the steep uphill that we have to hike, Helena has a little “Tienda” where you can buy a cold “Pisener” (local beer). For me, that I enjoy having a beer almost any time, it’s the perfect stop to rehydrate and chill a little bit having my cold beer. After that, the steep hill will be done in a minute. Chugchilan probably is one of the first villages to start receiving tourism, so it’s easy to find BB at the road. What we like the most, is The Black Sheep Inn is an inexpensive ecologically friendly hotel high in the Andes and is 100% community operated!. You really will enjoy this place. Around Chugchillan there are plenty of activities, local markets, cheese Factory and a communitary Lupine factory. The endless trails around the village will lead you to the high Andes or to the amazing cloud forest. Chugchilan it’s in the edge of the east andean range, so on the east side you will experience a drastic chance of ecosystem due to pacific coast weather forming massives lands of cloud forest, very biodiverse.
Probably the next trekking it’s the best in terms of taking unforgettable photos. The Quilotoa rim shows a unique landscape, the mix of the arid terrain, turquoise water of the caldera and the clouds reflecting in the water are the ideal travel photography. Trekking through the edge of the caldera it’s a stunning scenery. The trail goes around the caldera for about 15 kms (the loop), during this time, we will see indigenous people herding their sheep to their homes, very classic custom.
Shalala this small community-run sustainable tourism enterprise has a tasty lodge and great views. Shalala has a lovely botanic garden where you explore bouquets of chuchitos (bounteous purple flowers) and pumpo (reed-looking grass), and crafts. And the cool thing about Shalala it’s glass-fronted mirador viewing platform to the crater.
The last segment of this unforgettable trekking is between Shalala and Tigua. Also, has stunning views and the best part of the Toachi canyon, we will off the grid in this area, ancestral trails that connects the eastern side of the canyon by the indigenous communities, this is the path less traveled, so probably we won’t cross with other backpackers. Tigua it’s the village of naive artist, many Tigua artist are now famous for their painting. The painting tells about the Legend of the Quilotoa and the landscape that surrounds the Quilotoa. You will see many of them painting in the Quilotoa village.
Definitely, Cherish the Avenue of the volcanoes it’s a must do hike. The combination of a unique landscape, great photos, nice hostals and local culture, makes this trip a very particular for travellers who enjoy the simplicity of travelling.