Northern and Central Highlands of Ecuador

Trip Start Aug 19, 2010
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Trip End Sep 25, 2010


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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

After a night in Quito trying to get rid of our "sea legs" we went up north to Otavalo. Otavalo is known for its daily indigenous market. Saturdays is the biggest day but then it is also full of tourists. As we were here during the week we still got a good impression of the market but without the tourists. Colorful dressed women selling all kinds of fruits and veggies. But the most popular stall with the locals is the one where they sell CDs and DVDs. Really, they are all originals no copying is done in Ecuador;) One afternoon we went to a small village, Peguche, and on our way to the nearby waterfall you could hear the weaving machines working overtime. I guess finding handmade products on the market is not an easy job. After our visit to the waterfall we decided to walk back to Otavalo instead of taking the bus. Glad we did that, as we would have missed the beautiful hummingbirds that were feeding in a small flower field. Especially the one with the long tail feathers was great to watch. We also went to lake Mojanda and climb mount Fuya Fuya which means cloudy mountains in Quechua (the local indigenous language). Well, it was clouded indeed which gave it a surreal atmosphere but unfortunately the views of the volcanoes when we were on top of mount Fuya Fuya were also covered in clouds. Time to head south to Latacunga. Luckily we found out that there is a direct bus connection if you just wait at the bus stop on the pan American highway instead of going to the bus terminal of Otavalo. This saved us a lot of hassle and money as otherwise we had to go to Quito and get a taxi from the northern bus stop to the southern bus stop which takes about an hour and then get another bus to Latacunga. In Latacunga we did the so called Quilotao loop. In two days we got to see a diverse countryside. First you travel over the “páramo” the high Andean grasslands with its typical “paja” grass. Here families still live in the typical houses (actually more of a shelter) made of the paja grass. On a 20 square meter area with no electricity or running water an average family of 10 live, eat and sleep here together with some cats, dogs,chickens and cuys( guinea pigs).  These were the most basic homes we've seen so far here in Ecuador. Then you get to the mountainous area which is more rugged and more used as agricultural land. In Zumbahua we visited the indigenous market with again colorful people from the villages around Zumbahua and where the men were making tailor cut clothes on their old Singer sewing machines. In Tigua we bought our first souvenirs. Two little paintings on drum skins that are typical and also famous from this area. Then on to Quilotao with its bottomless crater lake. The sun made beautiful green patches on the lake. You could walk around the crater but looking at the steepness of the path and how deep the crater lake was we decided to do only part of it. We did walk down to the lake and in order to keep fit we also walked back up again instead of on horseback. The next day we went to Chuchilan with breathtaking scenery on the way. We crossed the mountains for a walk in the cloud forest. As the name implies it is cloudy here. Only 8 days of sunshine in a year. As soon as you get under 3800 meters you go from the páramo into a forest (and cloud!) covered area. Then back to Latacunga for a carajillo in Café Andes ( espresso with brandy the Ecuadorian way: topped with a layer of sweet condensed milk).  The best coffee we’ve had in Ecuador. After a day of rest in Latacunga we left Latacunga without seeing the supposedly impressive volcano Cotopaxi as it was covered in clouds the whole time we were in Latacunga. So we took the bus to Baños. This is ”the” tourist destination in Ecuador we’ve been to sofar. Everything here is catered for tourists. You can go hiking, climbing, canyoning, rafting, biking, puenting (sort of bungee jumping) and book any kind of 1 to 12 day jungle trip if you like. Tour operators on every corner of the street and restaurants in between. We decided to only go on day hikes here. We arrived on a rainy day but the days we went hiking we had great hiking weather and got to see the nearby Tungurahua volcano and even in the background the highest mountain / volcano of Ecuador, the Chimborazo. We also visited the many waterfalls around Baños, not as most people do on bike but we took the Chiva, an open truck with wooden benches. We thought we deserved an easy way of visiting the waterfalls after all our hiking. What do you do in Baños after a day of hiking, yes you guessed right, you go to the thermal baths. Not the most impressive one we’ve been to but is was definitely relaxing after hours of walking up and downhill. In Baños we even tried the famous candy melcocha. It’s a kind of chewy taffy and just have a look at the picture that shows how it is made. We didn’t like it too much, too sweet and chewy to our liking. Now it’s time to head further south and go to the Southern Highlands.
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Comments

anne-cathrien
anne-cathrien on

Hallo Broertjes....

Had ik al geschreven dat jullie wederom een fantastische reis aan het maken zijn en jullie weer onbeschrijfelijk mooie foto's hebben gemaakt? Nee? Nou dan zeg ik het nu, echt geweldig weer, amazing! Kan niet wachten om al die mooie foto's op jullie (of mijn) tv te zien. Ik geniet elke keer weer zo van jullie verhalen en foto's.
Geniet nog lekker de komende week en we spreken elkaar snel!

Liefs,
Anne-Cathrien

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