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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

The Right Kind of Donkey

Updated: Jun 16, 2023

For my second to final day in Quito, I had booked a full day tour to the beautiful Quilotoa Volcano.

Here was what I was told to expect;

Journey to the beautiful Quilotoa Volcano, driving through stunning mountain scenery and stopping to visit local Andean communities, during this 9-hour trip.  Travel along the spectacular 'Avenue of Volcanoes' passing beneath their towering peaks, eventually stopping at a village of the Paramos community.  Here you will explore a local home made of straw and learn about their daily life.  As well as enjoying time interacting with them, you will learn how they prepare the soil to sow.  Next you will head to the town of Tigua, famous for its native paintings and home to a large indigenous market.  Finish your day with a trip to the lagoon inside Quilotoa volcano and have a mule-riding adventure near its beautiful crater. 

So... I'm going to recap my entire day and at the end of this, we will explore the tour description once again.

A lady from Viator had called me the night prior, to confirm that I was going on the tour and that the guide would pick me up at my hotel the next morning at 8:45am and I was to be prepared for a 9-hour day.  Fine with me.

I got myself up early... headed downstairs... and waited in the lobby.  By 9am, I started to get a little worried that perhaps they had the hotel wrong, or I had the times wrong... but then Mr. Tour Guide showed up.

I was the ONLY one on the tour!

WTF?  Seriously...

I don't mean to be negative, because if you do look at the benefits of having a private tour guide, it can be a really good thing.  I get all of the attention, there's more time sightseeing and less time waiting for 20 randoms to use the bathroom and buy cheese that looks like the kind they have back home...  Now the tour is only as slow as I go... right?

On the other hand, I saw the flip side... I saw the obligation of having a 9 hour conversation with the tour guide and vice versa... I saw a LOT of driving ahead of me and that underlying sickly feeling that you're the reason that person ended up having to work today... and I hate the feeling of being uncomfortable.  

And let me assure everyone, that is exactly how it went.

I was actually a little upset that I wasn't told about the lack of interest in the tour and that above all, I wasn't given the option to back out.

After the formal introductions, normal ice breakers and the usual "where's your husband and why don't you have children"conversation was over... the 'pass the time with a lot of talking' questions began.  He was impressed that I spoke Spanish, but then he proceeded to speak so quickly that most of his words were lost on me... and he used a lot of words that I'd never heard before(like shortcut, mudslide and basecamp), so a lot of the conversation was backtracking in confusion.  I was honestly done with the practicing and word repetition ... and mostly, I just wanted to stare out the window.  Is that so wrong?

At one point the conversation got so mundane that I had to nip it in the bud before it went too far...(and once again, I'll write it all in English to spare everyone the translation)

We drove by a rose farm.

How much is a rose in Canada?

I don't know. More or less? Maybe $2... Don't you buy? No.

We drove by a Toyota 4-Runner. 

How much is a Toyota 4-Runner in Canada? Seriously... no idea.

More or less?

Maybe $35,000... ???

We drove by a coconut stand. 

How much is a coconut in Canada?

I just stopped there to spare you all... but it went on.  My head was melting.Finally I tried to make a joke about not usually being in the market for purchasing roses, coconuts and Toyota 4-Runners... etc.  Awkward... It's like asking me how many people live in Vancouver.  No idea.  More than 7....?

1 hour down... 8 to go.

I have to mention that we were actually in some kind of Toyota 4-Runner, perhaps not specifically, but you catch my drift.  It was definitely not a tour bus.

I spent a lot of the time looking out over the scenery, as we made our way out of Quito and up in to the mountains.  The rolling hills were very much representative of green quilted blankets coating the land.  It was, as described,stunning mountain scenery.

There were a few perks to having your own personal tour guide.  I could ask any question I wanted without feeling that it might dumb, such as;

"are there snakes here?"  

"What animals would kill me if I was stranded here?"

"Why are those houses pink?"

"Where does that path lead?

I paid $124 for this tour and I'm the only one here... damn straight I'm allowed to be annoying.

I also got some neat information - like, did you know that there are only 4 prisons in all of Ecuador?  That blew my mind considering everyone considers Ecuador such a dangerous country.  Gosh- back home, you swing a dead cat in the Fraser Valley alone and hit 5.That has GOT to show for something.

As we wound our way up in to the hills... he pulled over at a small shack that had a little girl outside grilling, what appeared to be...rat.

It was cuy.  Guinea Pig.

Apparently it tastes like chicken, but, starting today, I have real issues with gnawing on something that still has the head attached.  

You want to try?

Hmmm.... not sure.  Not really hungry right now.

You can buy for later.  To buy all, the whole thing, only $10. You want?

I think I'm going to pass.  I think I'm ok for now...

Honestly, I should have stepped out of my comfort zone for a minute and tried it... but I didn't. Life long regret ahead of me.

After the disappointment of me not paying $10 for a bbq'ed Guinea Pig, we left the Rat Shack and continued up in to the mountains.

Finally we arrived at Quilotoca. THREE hours later...

We got out of the car and started making our way towards to viewpoint, when Mr. Personal Tour stopped me in my tracks.

He asked me to trust him, give him my hands and shut my eyes. 

Oh my God... it's happening.

The tour guide, who's name I don't remember, and I are getting engaged....

Instead, he walked me to the edge of a cliff.

Which is maybe the same as marriage?   I should have asked that taxi driver from yesterday...

He walked me up to the viewpoint and then made me open my eyes so that I could engulf the entire vista at once.  It was pretty impressive, spectacular  and awe-inspiring... and a long way down.  

I think that was my first thought!

Ok... so to put it in perceptive for everyone, these are the hard facts:

  • Altitude: 11,542 to 12,746 ft - that's 1204 ft difference.

  • Distance: 1.7km

  • Down time: 30-40 minutes

  • Rise time: 1 hour - 1 & 1/2 hours

Mr. Personal Tour and I started our descendent and man, was it steep.  Not only was it exceedingly steep, but the entire way, he kept asking me tough questions, like:

"Are you going to walk back up or take a donkey?"

The pressure!

You know those times when you're all up in your own head,"Ya... I went to the gym for a week straight before my vacation and I can bike 35kms for a beer, I'm tough"... and then reality sets in after you've taken 9 steps in an upwards motion.

Well... I don't really want to foreshadow the future too much, but I kept telling him that"I don't really know, but I'll probably walk."

He seemed sceptical about my wishy washy answer, which made me want to walk back up all the more!  Plus... a donkey?  The smell alone turned me off.  I didn't know how to get on a donkey, let alone, get off a donkey.  No thank you, sir.

Mr. Personal Tour left me at the half-way point and made his way back up to the top again.  It took me about 30 minutes to get from top to bottom.  Very steep... and I'm surprised I didn't fall once.  There were some sketchy points though... and a lot of donkey shit.

Time for the ascent.  Ugh... the hard part.

I had taken off my sweater and was sporting my new favourite Mickey Mouse shirt. It was tough... I have to admit it.  Really tough. I found that I would go a bit faster, with seemingly stronger steps, when there were people coming down- like a facade that nothing bothered tough, brave, inspirational me.

I even overheard one guy say,"If Mickey can do it, we can do it!"

Now that's the spirit.


The unfortunate part of that story is that Mickey couldn't actually do it!  And I was still struggling with whether or not I should opt for the donkey...

Isn't that the option that unfit, fat, lazy people take?

I'll just shut up now... because after making it back up about 1/8th of the way... a lady came by with a donkey and I yelled out"Taxi! Taxi!"

There goes my one-day-get-fit-plan in preparation for the journey back home.

I reconciled with myself that the donkey was the quicker option, because Mr. Personal Tour had told me that he had to have the car back by 5.

By 5pm?  Interesting...


Because it doesn't belong to me.

Who does it belong to?

The tour.

But I'm on the tour.

Yes... but they want it by 5.

Ok... so much for the 9 hour tour.

I stopped asking questions.

The lady who came to my rescue with the donkey, told me $12, after I'd been told it is was $10. She ripped me off.  In addition to this, I didn't have a $2... so I had to give her a $5... and she only had $2.96 in change.  So basically she ripped me off $2.04.  I have to think of it as a cultural experience, and not a lesson in penny pinching...

Damn Marta.

Mr. Personal Tour was also angry when he heard as well, and wanted to head back down to find her to get my money back.  In order to avoid that treacherous hill again, I had to let it go...


Then I was forced in to buying(and eating)Quinoa soup... another $4.00.  Mr. Personal Tour had taken the liberty of ordering it while I was out hiking & canoodling with my new favourite donkey.  

I fell asleep on the way home and awoke as we were approaching Quito.

Guess we won't be visiting the village of the Paramos community, nor will we be exploring a local home made of straw and learning how they prepare soil to sow.  And I guess I can kiss Tigua's native paintings and large indigenous market goodbye.

Oh well... the tour only cost me $124... why not rush so that we can get the car back.

The rest of the conversation was per usual;

Will you come back to Ecuador? Yes. Of course. When? I don't know. When do you think you will come back? Maybe in 4 or 5 years?

Will you bring your husband?

I'm sensing a theme here...

I'll try. Hopefully he can get the time off work....

Met up with Estella tonight for dinner.  Estella is a story that I left out of the blog... to be added in at a later date.  She is from Vancouver and has the exact same flights as I do... coming & going.  She doesn't like high altitudes, has both a fanny pack and a traveling money bag on her at all times, her luggage is a back pack & about 3 big plastic bags... and she brought her own food from Vancouver because she 'wasn't sure if the airports would have food or not.'

Need I say more?  

Oh - one more thing... she doesn't drink... so I didn't have a willing partner in my fun game of 'find the wine.'  She only cared about eating Guinea Pig... which to me, is a sign of someone who doesn't have their priorities in order, but who am I to judge?

I have recently initiated a rule(today)that I don't eat anything with the head still attached.  I'm going to amend that now and also add 'legs and feet.'

Just not my thang...

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