On Friday December 20, 2013, I woke up early to meet my friends Abby and Alex at the main bus terminal in Riobamba. We were going on a trip that had been mostly planned the day before. If you know me, then you might know that this would panic me a little bit. I still made it to that terminal despite a couple days of back and forth over whether or not I really wanted to go. I was just scared. It was just so…unorganized! But I made the leap, which landed me on an inter-provincial bus at 7:00 A.M.

Our first stop was Latacunga, city a couple hours north of Riobamba, where we waited for Jeff and Lauren to join us from their homes in the Amazon. Here in the bus terminal, we bought some last minute supplies for our trip, including water and toilet paper. With some deep breaths, I’m doing ok.

It turned out that we had bought tickets for a bus that didn’t technically go to Quilotoa, our final
destination, but the bus driver wanted our business so bad that he made a detour off his main route to drop us off in the little town. We unloaded our bags from the top of the bus, checking to make sure all of our stuff had
survived the trip.

After a pit stop in a local hostel, we made our way into Quilotoa. And I literally mean INTO. We hiked down into Quilotoa, the volcanic crater lake, to set up camp. It’s active, of course, with gas bubbles coming out of the water. We set up our two tents on a grassy area overlooking the lake. We spent the next two days kayaking, playing cards, hanging out, and watching the various animals that live in the crater, including dogs and alpacas. The nights we spent freezing our butts off, wearing every item of clothing we brought and snuggling up in the tents.

On Sunday, we packed up camp, and waited for the horses that would be taking us out of the crater. After a long wait, we packed some of our backpacks on one horse. While climbing onto my donkey, the loose saddle slid, and I fell off. Thus, I can say that I have fallen off a donkey in an active volcano. Definitely a highlight of the year. Anyway, halfway up, my friend Alex and I climbed off our poor, exhausted mounts and walked the rest of the way.  As soon as I reached the top, the five of us climbed into the back of a camioneta and got driven back to Latacunga, from where we made our way home.

Despite very little planning, I came away from the weekend with vivid memories and stories to tell. I also
got a nasty sunburn that is still causing my whole face to peel. But it was all worth it.