Trying to find easy day trips near Riobamba that doesn’t require a car is quite difficult. I’ve already done all the suggested places from the Lonely Planet including Chimborazo and Guano. But when I saw there was a small lake that can be reached by bus, I jumped at the chance.
Colta is located 17 km away from Riobamba and is home of the largest population of the indigenous Quichua.
When the bus dropped Dan and I off, the first thing I noticed was Señor del Buen Viaje (The Lord of Good Journey). The statue was quite disturbing in that if I want a spirit over me as I travel, I really don’t want him to be as bloody as this guy. Or this spirit has taken all my potential injuries away.
Our next stop on our tour of Colta was Iglesia del Balbanera, the first Catholic church in Ecuador. From the outside, it’s a bit underwhelming. But then again, we are in the middle of Ecuador with a lot of mountains surrounding it.
From the outside, I could hear organ music which sounded as if there was a huge gathering. From the inside, it felt cold, sterile and very empty minus the lady watching the donation box.
The museum inside the church was “free”, but donations are highly suggested. It was a small room filled with costumes and more statues. We gave them $1 to say we contributed.
Colta’s market is located in a plaza next to the church. The market was pretty sparse considering it was a Saturday. We were later told that Sunday is market day.
The market sold the usual market stuff: alpaca sweaters and ponchos, woolly hats and llama key chains. But there was something I did find that I had never seen before in Ecuador.
Tagua nut comes from the South American palm. Once carved, the seed looks like ivory. Sadly, they didn’t have a llama key chain. Gutted…
Along the road, we noticed a lot of small restaurants selling cuy (guinea pig). As Dan had not partaken in eating one of Ecuador’s national dishes, we decided to have lunch.
We got a whole cuy plus boiled potatoes covered with sauce for $9. Price wise, it’s not bad considering I got a quarter of a cuy in Baños for $4. Now, when I say we got the whole cuy, I mean we got everything minus a few organs. For me, I didn’t mind having a head on a plate. At one point in time, this was a living being. I also grew seeing with heads presented on a plate. But Dan had a little trouble with this. Very understandable.
We attempted eating the plate of cuy. For me, it was a lot of work for a little return. Lots of bones, little meat. The skin was quite tough, but I think it was more because it was overcooked. We valiantly tried to finish, but we left a whole lot behind.
We started talking to the lady who brought us the food. Her name is Luz, a Colombian. She and her husband, Germani, a Venezuelan, started their small restaurant many years ago. For them, they viewed cuys as pets like Dan and I. It was only when they arrived in Ecuador did they see cuy as food.
Laguna de Colta is the town’s main attraction. On Google maps, the lake looked quite big. In real life, we weren’t allowed to walk the entire circumference of the lake. Oh well.
In Puruhá language, the lake is known as Kulta Kucha (duck lake). There were plenty of ducks in this lake. They just wanted to be as far away from land as possible.
The lake was very quiet for a Saturday. The sections where we could walk was pleasant.
Dan and I wanted to see a bit more, so we rented bikes. These bikes were made for kids and the brakes didn’t work, but it was still fun.
We found a small greenhouse with orchids. It was small and had only a few different types of orchids growing.
Thirty minutes came and went quickly, so we returned our bikes.
After picking up a personalized refrigerator magnet for Dan, we headed back to Riobamba.
- To get to Colta from Riobamba, head to the Terminal Intercantonal station. It’s a good 4 km walk from the center of Riobamba.
- From there, buses to Colta leave every 15 minutes. The fare is 50¢.
- There are two parts of Colta, the main part with shops, restaurants and homes and a little bit further is the lake, market, and church.
- The cost to get to the lake is 60¢. To rent a bike for 30 minutes cost $2 and requires some form of identification to be left with the attendant.
- To get back to Riobamba, flag down any bus that says Riobamba. One should appear every 5 minutes. If you want to be taken back to Terminal Terrestre, the main bus station, versus the Intercantonal station, flag down any bus that says “Alausí”, “Patria” or “Flota Bolivar”.
- Budget half a day for Colta. This includes eating roadside cuy.