The Quilotoa Loop is a 200km length of road with small villages every 50-60km. It’s worth visiting just for the beauty of the Andes but a lot of visitors use it to acclimatize for Cotopaxi. Jules and I had considered summiting Cotopaxi at some point in our trip so we planned for 2 nights on the loop, one at the crater lake and one in Chugchilan.
After a freezing cold night in Quilotoa and building a successful wood fire in the iron stove in our hostal room (the village has no central heating and no hot water), we woke up feeling like pioneers on the prairie, which is the only thing that accounts for our decision to rent horses and ride to Chugchilan.
I have two previous horseback riding experiences in my life, one of which was at 8 years old.
Don’t I look happy to be perched on top of that giant horse? This is about 5 seconds before I fell off, sprained my wrist and said I’d never get on another horse. 8 years later I did get on another horse, which went fine, but there’s never been a point since where I missed horseback riding and dreamed of it fondly.
Despite this less than glorious horse history, I agreed to rent horses and ride them to Chugchilan instead of hiking/climbing/walking the 5 hour trail. I went first and ended up with the only horse in the bunch
The other two were ponies and one was tricky from the outset
The stirrups on Jules’ saddle couldn’t be adjusted so the guides helped her shove her feet in, which only worked for a few minutes.
Lauren and Jules then switched ponies and Lauren rode super casual with her feet almost touching the ground
And Jules walked
For 3 hours we rode over sharp peaked mountains
And in and out of steep canyons
Through backroads shortcuts and rural farm country with tiny houses perched on the steep grades and occasional sheep and herders crossing the road.
My feet fell asleep, my legs were killing me, Jules hiked most of the way and I don’t think Lauren used the stirrups once but we all made it to Chugchilan just minutes ahead of a massive rainstorm that lasted the rest of the afternoon.
I wouldn’t recommend this trip by horseback. The trail is washed out and gullied in a scary way, the guides hold the reins so there’s no way for us to control our horses, it’s a steep long journey and once we were in it there was no turning back. We made it but I don’t think I’d do it again.
Save the horseback riding for a shorter more recreational journey. That’s my advice.