Black Sheep Inn

A gateway to Andean Adventure

    Photo: Illustration by Jorge Colombo

WHEN GUESTS ARRIVE at this lodge, tucked in the Cordillera mountain range five hours down the road from Quito, they marvel at the rustic chalet-style lodge and the view over the Rio Toachi Canyon. But they break out the cameras for the facility's dry-composting toilets. These thrones are stand-alone shacks that include little indoor vegetable and flower gardens and picture windows for enjoying the canyon views.
"Guests always compliment us on the toilets," says Andres Hammerman, a 36-year-old Chicago native who co-owns Black Sheep with his wife, Michelle Kirby. "But they're also a really good example of sustainable agriculture, because the compost is used later for planting trees."
The rest of the lodge may not be quite as eccentric, but it's equally sustainable. The four outbuildings (which have a total of nine bedrooms, each with its own fireplace) and the dining lodge are built from homemade adobe bricks and roofed with straw and Spanish tile. Hammerman and Kirby travel to Quito to recycle glass, paper, and plastics. Besides donating phone lines to the village school and police station, the couple encourages visitors to get involved in local projects; one recent guest bought books for local schoolchildren.

The seven-mile hike from 12,500-foot Quilotoa Crater Lagoon down to Black Sheep is considered one of the best day hikes in Ecuador (a lodge employee will drive you to the trailhead). Visitors can also climb, mountain-bike, and ride horses along the volcanic walls of Rio Toachi Canyon, trek to pre-Incan ruins, or wander up into the high-altitude cloudforest. In the evenings, guests assemble for family-style feasts of organic veggies from the garden. Afterward, they gather around the fireplace to drink beer, tell stories, and woozily stroll back to their cabins to sink into cozy loft beds. Contact: Black Sheep Inn, 011-593-381-4587, www.blacksheepinn.com. cost: $18 per person, double; $30, single; includes breakfast and dinner.

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