A small taste of Iceland – The Golden Circle

Welcome to Iceland. A tiny place with a big heart. Housing a small population of between 350,000 people and 400,000 people, but home to nearly 2 million tourists every-year, a scary figure that keeps growing bigger and bigger.

Iceland was something just completely out of this world. It felt to me, like going to another planet.

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Hiking Cerro Guanaco –  the windswept ridge and angry peak. 

I love to climb mountains. Hiking up through thick forests, into a peat bog and onto the windswept, barren ridge, Cerro Guanaco was a beautiful hike, yet contained many challenges – as most mountains do!

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Where mermaids live and rivers made of clouds – hiking in gumboots to Laguna Turquesa and Laguna Esmeralda

The mud was incredible! Up to my knees in some parts and boot sucking, squewlchy (is that a word?), sticky, muddy mud! We were so thankful the hostel, Cruz del Sur, lent us the gumboots, even though our feet ached and complained all day, it saved us a lot of hassle, and kept our feet somewhat dry!

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Climbing Rainbow Mountain Take 2 – Chile and the Cochamó Valley

I thought it was appropriate to attempt a second rainbow. This time Cerro Arcoiris in the Cochamó Valley. It was possibly the toughest and most technical day hike I have done in a while (equalling the challenges of Tasmanias Mount Anne Circuit maybe even…). But first there was the adventure to get to the trail head… 
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Tasting the rainbow -Vinicunca Mountain

“In this life we are all just walking up the mountain, and we can sing as we climb, or we can complain about our sore feet. Whichever we choose we still have gotta do the hike. I decided a long time ago that singing made a lot more sense”. 
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Quilatoa with a twist

It was definitely the beginning of a grande adventure when we arrived in Sigchos off the local bus and the clouds yet again rolled in, rain beginning to fall in big heavy droplets…. not a vehicle in site! 

We hoped to make it to the Quilatoa crater lake by trekking a section of the well-walked and breathtakingly beautiful loop. Opting out of the first section due to poor weather and a late start, we managed to negotiate a ride to Isinlivi and set up camp in the backyard of Llullu Llama hostel (a cozy and inviting home away from home), sharing our space with a llama and a beautiful big dog. 

Camping was fun, but I would strongly suggest those who plan to do the loop carry as little as possible, sleep in the beds at the hostels, save yourself the pain and breathlessness experienced on some of the hills along the way! 

Mulled wine, card games, good chatter and a warm fire kept us all up until late, forming friendships with fellow travellers. 

Hiking from Isinlivi to Chúgchillan was beautiful and exciting, but beware of two barking dogs, and children asking for lollies. Seeing as pictures speak louder then wor I will continue this post with a few images. All in all the hike was amazing! And we managed to beat the mountain weather that rolls in every afternoon (yay)! 

We stayed at the Cloud Forest hostal in town, which was lovely too. Though nothing like Llullu Llama, it had its own unique charms and a few cosy hammocks to nap in. 

The following day we opted out of hiking and decided instead to catch a taxi to Quilatoa and spend the day horse riding, kayaking, swimming and exploring the lake. 

Even though the taxi was 2 hours late, we had a beautiful day by the crater lake (see pictures below) 

We caught the mules up the steep track, which was a smart idea, though those animals work mighty hard to get up that hill, I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty. 

We enjoyed a meal of (yep, you guessed it, a reliable and common meal for Ecuador)…. chicken and rice. A delicious hot chocolate and we were on our way back to Latacunga where we had stored our luggage at Hostal Tiana. 


A short stay in the Cotopaxi bush…

Heading to Cotopaxi by private shuttle from the Secret Garden Quito, to their sister hostel, the Secret Garden Cotopaxi was a bumpy ride. Located out of Machachi and off the well worn roads, we bumped across cobble stones and dirt roads with an extreme amount of potholes, dodging cows, llamas, dogs and horses along the way. 

The ride was well worth it, and not only did we all sigh a breath of relief when the bus come to a stop, we all sighed in awe at the beautiful countryside that surrounded us. Mountains on every side, farmland and animals running around, the quaint little  hostel nestled into the land with a special sort of romance mostly seen in movies or read about in books. 


Set up for a relaxing and adventurous stay, this place was to become my home for the next 3 days thanks to a special package deal that includes all meals, snacks and a few guided hikes while you’re there. 

We were greeted with a warm fireplace, an abundance of Christmas lights and a mug of mulled wine. After getting welcomed, fed a hot lunch, and settled in our dorm rooms (very fancy and comfy dorm rooms), we set off on the first hike. 

Up the hill in our Wellies (provided), we crawled through the scrub into the river; which looked like something out of a fairy tale with green moss blanketing every surface you could see, and a cool clear stream flowing down the rocks. We Began to rock hop, climb and with slightly wet feet we continued up the river, listening for the sound of waterfalls…. that’s when it began to rain, hail, and pour! 

Nothing would deter us or break our happy spirits though, and we continued as a team up, up and away, until we finally came to the big and beautiful waterfalls. 

The water was freezing, so I don’t blame the others for not swimming, but nothing was going to stop me from leaping into the clear water! Our guide, Frank, then showed us the beer he had been carrying the whole time and we all shared a Few bottles between us before starting the hike home. If it wasn’t for the weather, we were told there would be views like no other! 

The community we formed in this little hostel was like a small family and a few of us enjoyed a rest in the jacuzzi while it drilled with rain outside. 

The following morning we could see Cotopaxi (Before the clouds rolled in)! Cotopaxi is the highest active volcanoe in the world, and the word means ‘shining peak’ – she definitely shone, radiating white snow and an air of mystery. 

Pasachoa was hiked that day – an extinct volcanoe that now appears as a sunken crater with a humid forest within (which we explored). Up to 4200m, we climbed. Whilst it was a beautiful hike, the altitude affected everyone and we were all out of breath on various occasions. The forest is one of the only non-touched highland forests remaining in its original state, it was pretty cool to see. 

The hike took us about 5 hours and was only a 15km round trip. We relaxed in the late afternoon again with a jacuzzi and swinging in the hammocks with a glass of wine. 

The clouds rolling in at the top of pasachoa : 

There were a variety of other activities to participate in, including reaching the climbers refuge at Cotopaxi and then riding a bike out of the national park, horse riding in the outskirts of the national park, and the ruminahui summit trek which invokes ropes, abseiling and climbing. 

Below are some pictures of my stay (as my camera is very precious to me I didn’t risk taking it out in the rain (it rained every day which was unusual) so there are not pictures of everything here). 

I would recommend this stay to anyone who needs a bit of adventure, some good food and a bit of relaxation. Be aware that although transport to the hostel is included, getting a bus out is not – it costs $3 to get to machachi and from there you can hail down a bus to nearly anywhere (latacunga or Baños seem to be popular next destinations). 

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings…”  – John Muir