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Andean scene

We had a slightly earlier start today and met Alex just after 8am. Our first stop was a small town called Pujili where they have a market on Sundays. Unlike Guamote, where the market takes over the centre of the town, this one is in a purpose built market area.

It was about 9am when we got there. Loads of little eateries had been set up, each with just one or two bench style tables. They were dishing up soup, rice, potatoes and fried fish amongst other things, for us strange things to be eating at that time of day. At the market stalls all of these things were also for sale to take home and cook. They also had less appetising bits - pretty much every part of an animal was available to buy. What looked like round cakes were actually large lumps of pig fat, lard, being sold for cooking fat.

About half of the market was full of fruit and vegetable stalls. Many of the items for sale were familiar to us but there were also some more exotic items available - papaya, tree tomatoes and others I cannot remember! Big piles of what looked like weeds are actually a type of yerba, used to make a tea which is very good for the stomach.

Although interesting, the market was not a patch on Guamote and we were soon off on our way to Quilotoa. What looks like a short distance on the map took two hours to cover. The road climbed and would up hills/mountains and down into valleys. Alex pointed Quilotoa out to us. It did not look far, just across the valley, but was still an hour away. The valley before the village had huge cracks and scars in it, evidence of seismic activity. The breaks were next and looked as if they could simply be stitched back together, if only there was a way to move the earth again!

Quilotoa crater reflected in my shades

Quilotoa itself is a tiny village with about twenty buildings. Its sole purpose seems to be geared around people visiting the lake. The lake itself is inside the crater of Volcan Quilotoa and is 400m down a steep and sandy path. The crater is huge and the views across it are amazing. The water is green due to the high mineral content. You can see six or seven ridges just above the surface showing where the water level used to be.

The local villagers have the usual display of artesanales available for us to buy (we did not). They also do quite a good trade in donkey and horse rides for people who have gone down to the level of the lake and do not want to walk back up. It is high altitude again here and knowing how hard the walk up would be we only went part way down.

For the money we paid, both yesterday's ($70) and today's (£85) tours were expensive for what we got. What we do not know is whether this is the going rate for Latacunga or whether it was a premium rate because we have splashed out and are staying at a bit of a fancy hotel.

We were back at the hotel mid afternoon and had a relaxing few hours in the lounge. A small group of Kiwis and Aussies have checked in. They are on a two weeks trip climbing the mountains in Ecuador. Yesterday they climbed Cotopaxi and made it to 5,400m but then had to turn back. They were all knackered and had spent most of today asleep. They were then followed by a large and noisy group of cloggies! Still no Americans and no Japanese, the latter do not seem to "do" South America.

Stef pipped me to the post at cribbage again, winning by just one point!