Hiking and Climbing Fuya Fuya, Otavalo, Ecuador (January 2014)

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January 24th 2014
Published: January 24th 2014
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23 January 2014 – Thursday – Otavalo, Ecuador

Hard fun today. After a quick cup of coffee and a cake for breakfast, we walked to the Ecomontes Tour office for our day’s adventure. We drove about 20 kilometres into the heart of Volcano Avenue to the crater lakes of Mojanda which are 3700 meters (12, 139 feet) above sea level. Mojanda is a complex of three lakes with colourful names from the local Quechua language: Caricocha (male lake) or big lake, Huarmicocha (female lake) or small lake and Yanacocha or black lake. The three lakes are connected by different paths through the high altitude grasslands and shrub-lands that lie about the cloud forests and are collectively known as ‘paramo’ and are defended by two mountains the Fuya-Fuya to the East and the Yanahurco or Black Mountain to the west.

From here we began our ascent of Fuya Fuya (which means Cloudy Cloudy). At 4265 meters (13,993 feet), it is the highest peak in the area. This was no meandering climb of leisurely switchbacks and long gradual traverses; it was straight up to the top! Even though the trek was less than 2 kilometres, it took us 2 hours and 20 minutes (which we were later told was about average). The higher we went the thinner the air got and the more difficult to breathe and walk. We stopped frequently, sometimes after only 10 or 12 steps, feeling exhausted and breathless, and just waited until our breathing returned to normal and proceeded another few meters, oftentimes pulling ourselves up the steeper inclines by the tough grasses. We both thought about quitting on numerous occasions, but with our smiling and laughing guide, Claudi, encouraging us and watching over us for signs of altitude sickness, we persevered and made it to the summit, where we were greeted with a fabulous panoramic view. The last twenty meters were particularly tough and a little bit scary, straight up through rocks, pulling ourselves up with our hands. Claudi had brought sandwiches and chocolate and Joan had brought fruit and I carried the water and we had a lovely picnic overlooking the chain of volcanoes. We descended via another path, again stopping often to wait for breathing and heart rate to stabilize. Once we had returned to our starting point at the shore of the crater- lake, we rode back to Otavalo on mountain bikes. It was nearly all downhill, but the road was made entirely of rocks and cobble stones, which made for a jarring and bone-shaking ride. When we arrived back at the hotel we were absolutely shattered but quite proud of our achievement.

After a long hot shower and a rest we had a quasi-Italian meal at the nearby Deli Cafe Restaurant and then went to check out Amaunta Pita again in the hope of hearing some live music, but it was still closed so we returned to our Hotel Riverie Sucre to read, rest, relax and catch up on our journal writing. The small hotel, which only has 14 rooms, has been invaded by a busload of French, with noisy children. It is too shabby and worn to be labelled a chic ‘boutique’ hotel but we have felt very comfortable here. There are a couple of 90-day residents in the hotel: a retired Canadian man who is getting his teeth worked on. (Apparently Canada’s social health system regarding dentistry is great if you are still working but inadequate and expensive if you are retired. This man says all the dentists in Ecuador are trained either in Europe or the USA and the work is a fraction of the price.) There is also an American man who is teaching English to Ecuadorans. He has classes in the dining area in the evening and also one-on-one tutorials during the day. He spends 90 days teaching in Ecuador and then he goes to Colombia to teach for the rest of the year.


24th January 2014
Otavalo Lake Mojanda and Fuya Fuya Mountain 036

How lovely

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