In September of 2013, I hiked the Quilotoa area 13,000 feet up in the Andes mountains of Ecuador. My first day in the area was pretty scary. The wind blew so hard that it actually knocked me horizontal!
Had I been standing a foot more to the right, I would have fallen to my death.
I’d grown up in Indiana with 50 mph winds and never experienced this before. Would I survive the Quilotoa crate rim hike, or would the strong winds blow me over the edge to my demise?
The Quilotoa crater lake is one of the most awesome sights I’ve ever seen: on par with Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. The lake is bright turquoise, surrounded by a very high rim of what was once an active volcano.
After that fierce wind had knocked me on my butt, I decided to solicit the aid of a hired guide, an Andean man. Surely he would know alternate paths in case of wind. The hike took six hours. Several times there were long stretches not suitable for those with fear of heights: put your foot off the narrow path and you fall to your death, as many have done.
But I was so ecstatic that it wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined it to be that I couldn’t help but look down, with a death defying dopamine rush! Francisco would admonish me, “Don’t look down! This is scary, even for me!” (And he’s been a guide since ’85.)
As the hike came to a close, I was so happy to still be alive, and in fact feel more alive than ever, that I decided to tip my Andean guide 33% (meaning ten bucks on top of the $30).