The small town of Lloa is only a few minutes away from south Quito but feels as if it is hundreds of miles away. The atmosphere could not be any less city like than you could imagine. Fresh air and few cars are the first clue. Quiet city streets that are a combination of old cobble, cement blocks, and dirt and many of the houses have been here for generations. And people standing around on street corners looks as if they’ve either just come from completing farm chores or are on their way to get started. The surrounding hillsides are bright green with grassy pastures or patch-worked by freshly plowed fields and cropland full of ripening quinoa, recently planted fava beans, and purple flowering potato plants. Black and white dairy cows are everywhere, including along the road where calves are hitched so they can keep the grass well-cropped.
On a Sunday afternoon, the streets are filled with Quiteño cars as nearby city residents escape the hustle and bustle and come to the country to enjoy a meal in a local restaurant. But the middle of the week is a different story. It’s as quiet as quiet can be. You would be lucky to find a cup of coffee as most folks are out working the surrounding farm fields, not waiting for customers to appear on what is a workday for most Ecuadorians. Housewives might be hanging laundry on the bushes at the edge of the town plaza and the sounds of school children might waft over from the local school. Or you might only hear the high pitched tweets of hummingbirds in the trees at the small park on the plaza.
However, the visitor’s center will likely be open and you can learn about all the possible places to visit in the Lloa region like the hot springs, the local dairies, the famous church named El Cinto, a waterfall or two, and a couple of local estancias that are open for guests. We’ve come by several times on our way to Guagua Pichincha, the volcano that erupted back in 1999. In fact, Lloa could be called the Gateway to Guagua as the road to the mountain refugio passes right through town. Hiking guides recommend taking a bus to LLoa and walking to the summit of Guagua, a hike of about 10 miles, one way. We recommend driving to the Refugio and hiking from there (directions to come later this week).