Caminata Mujanda Arriba - Otavalo

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November 2nd 2009
Published: January 20th 2010
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After the bad expereince in Quito we were and still are surprised to find nice people in Otavalo. To see how lovely relaxed and warm the people are here was a relief. We stayed in a nice hostel run by an American - Ecuadorian couple, it was called Rincon El Viajero, quite a common name for many hostels as we found later on. Otavalo gets lots of tourists, especially at the weekend, due to its market, but yet keeps to its values and friendliness - it completely changed our mood since we arrived there.

As it is only two hours bus ride from Quito, many tourists come here for a day excursion or a weekend. We, however, made it our new base for excursions in the north of Ecuador. We found here some nice and cheap places to eat and drink, for example, the evening skewer stalls at the poncho market square, these provided for me the absolute sensation that I was in a South American country, or the Zigzag cafe behind them that was cosy with a live local band playing some nights. Many of the locals were out buying skewers, sitting around eating and chatting, some kids played their last hide-and-seek game for the day and the dogs sat quietly near us hoping for a bone.

We initially came here to do the Caminata Mujanda Arriba - a traditional annual 42km walk from a village called Josefina (about 2500m asl) via Laguna de Mujanda at 3700m asl 38km later where we received lunch. Then, down back to Otavalo, another 18km, where an orchestra welcomed us with loud happy festive tunes. Normally this was walked over two days, however this year for some reason the organisers had decided to do the walk over one day.

The walk starts at six in the morning with a one and a half hour nutorious up hill speedy climb, gaining perhaps 500m. The locals walked like mountain goats, some carried their mountain bikes and still walked at our speed. Very impressive especially as we both used to run in the mountains in Israel, but not in this altitude. We carried this impression with us on the next treks we did and timed them with extra hours. For me it was a killer and I was lacking energy for the rest of the walk, Liz on the other hand finally warmed up. Anyway, after this killing climb we had perhaps a ten km of a reasonable shallow ascend via Malchingui, accompanied by a lovely sunny dry day, Liz speeded up and I tried hard to keep to her pace, but then as we headed up on the mountain the altitude hit me, I slowly felt weaker and slower. The speed of my walk gradually reduced to a turtle pace and I had to stop for a rest more and for longer. The weather didn't contribute as it deteiorate the higher we walked, at first we enjoyed the chilled refreshing breeze, but later as we walked into the clouds we got hard rain and the colder temperature didn´t do our sweating bodies any favours. About two km before Laguna de Mujanda my legs couldn't carry me anymore and the organisers and Liz forced me to take the jeep to the lake.

Lake Mujanda is beautiful, it is nice to see the reflection of the mountains on the peacefull face of the water. On a good day it is possible to see some snow cap mountain in the distance. About two km from Lake Mujanda in the direction of Malchingui there is a
A gloomy Laguna Mujanda A gloomy Laguna Mujanda A gloomy Laguna Mujanda

We arrived here early afternoon for a nice warm lunch that was a blessing
magical waving surface. The grass has grown over imense rocks and thus created a visual effect of waves, sometimes the rocks got cut and so did the grass this exposed the sheer face of the black volcanic rock; by this it provided a visual illusion of shadow that gave another dimension to the magic of this place, pity I was too exhausted to take a photo of it. Around the lake there are some hiking treks quite easy to do and the next week we hiked up to the peak of mountain Fuya Fuya, this is at 4260m asl. It was a lovely sunny day and the mountain was ours - absolutely terrific, of course something has to spoil the ideal picture and again it was a bloody ecuadorian thief! We took a taxi up from Otavalo and agreed with the driver to return to collect us but he didn't show. For this I say one should respect the other because you can never tell when the evil inside them might pop up! We walked down back to Otavalo 18km, so in some respects this was a blessing as it meant we did the final leg of the Mujanda trek,
Scenery around lake MujandaScenery around lake MujandaScenery around lake Mujanda

Try to see the image of a face (of Stevie Wonder) in the clouds to the right of the mountain
finishing it just before dark.

But back to Caminata Mujanda. I must say that the organisation of this walk was fabulous. A pick-up van was running up and down the walk offering water and/or a lift for people who got tired. They made sure that no one would be left behind or get lost, along the walk medical staff were scattered as well, whilst the warmth of the people who walked with us was lovely, the addition of care from the organisers maximised the feeling of joy and relaxation. Finally after two atroucious weeks in Quito we could put our guards down and feel like we were on a trip.

Additional photos below
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Gathering for the returnGathering for the return
Gathering for the return

After lunch the organisers packed the walkers onto trucks for the descent back to Otavalo

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