Published: July 18th 2012July 15th 2012
The Aya Huma Hostel at Peguche, was a series of white washed buildings perched beside a small stream and wooded ravine. Originally the hostel had been a railway station and apart from the design of the main building, the rail lines ran right through the middle. Farmland surrounds it. We checked into our hostel style rooms, and were immediately invited by the host- a dutch woman- to join her family and some guests for a traditional indigenous lunch. Though I have forgotten the word, this was basically a “hangi” based on hot rocks, bamboo leaves, canvas covering and soil. They cooked potatoes, plantains, pork and cassava root. Part of the attraction of this hostel is the linkage to indigenous culture, so our hosts told stories about the pre-columbian people in this region, their beliefs about the land, and the connections they felt with the universe, which they called Pacha Manka. Sounds corny but it seemed completely right for the place, the day and the people.
Bill, Wendell, Catherine and I had a chance to catch up on our long-standing friendship. We had met originally back in Washington, DC, in 1984 when Greg was starting a postdoc, Catherine was working in
a research lab, and Bill was a PhD student, working on the same lab bench as Catherine. G&C had not met Wendell at that time, though Bill knew her from college days.
Later that afternoon we walked up the Otavalo cascades. Nice waterfall running through a nature reserve. The forest was well developed and lush, though clearly not native as the trees were recognisable as eucalypts. Maybe planned in this area to stablise the soil on these relatively steep mountains. Walking back in the evening, Bill and Wendell spotted the first of several hummingbirds.
Aya Huma hostel has an excellent restaurant which we enjoyed into the night. Wholesome meals and a great chance for Bill to work through the intricacies of regional spanish. We recalled also the time Bill and Wendell dined with us in Washington, 1987, in the hours before our son Alex was born.
The guide books talk about the love the Ecuadorians have for music and dance. Well the music at least pumped on well into the next morning, which was not perfect! After a hearty breakfast we opted to visit a local physical highlight and get into training for our Machu Pichu climb.
This was Cuicocha which is a crater lake at the foot of the Cotacachi volcano. The lake itself is at some 3250m above sea level, and it offered the chance to climb perhaps another 300m higher. Its name comes from theKichwa indigenous language and means "Lago del Cuy" or Guinea Pig Laguna in English. It was given this name due to the guinea pig shape of the largest Island in the middle of the laguna. This was a spectacular, but long walk. Greg felt the altitude as just the first warning of the Pichu climb to come. We were also fortunate because the wildflowers were out. They say Ecuador is a megadiverse environment and we saw plenty of evidence of that with hummingbirds, raptors, pre-historic plants and flowers. Unfortunately no mammals, but the scatologist in me thought I saw Andean bear poo.
After some 5 hours of walking we got back to the visitors centre and almost no one was around. We were facing another few hours walking back to the closest village! Wendell took the initiative and hitched a ride for all four of us back to the Cotacachi village, and then as it turned out, back to
the outskirts of Otavalo. Brilliant days walk!
Enjoyed a meal with Aya Huma again, and a great blackberry canelazo.
The highlight of the second day in Otavalo was definitely a visit to the Condor Park. This was perched high above the town and had a viewing area that allowed the birds to fly out over the valley, but still return to the handler. We saw Condors which were beautiful but that cannot be a patch on seeing them in the wild. The bird we did see souring was a black-breasted buzzard eagle called Susan. During her time aloft one of her wild boyfriends flew in to visit.
Back to Quito that night by local express bus. Added to the colour of the trip.
There are more photos below