It does look a lot like New Zealand doesn´t it?
How did I come to be staying inside a volcanic crater??
Well, I walked a few kms up the side of a mountain close to Mitad del Mundo, came to a ridge, looked down into a pit of cloud, then descended 300m along an extremely steep, rocky, path into the crater - and discovered it housed a bunch of farms and a lovely hostal. This crater is called ¨Puluahua¨ and is one of only two craters in the world that are inhabited (the second is in Japan). Puluahua crater was formed after an eruption 2000 years ago. The volcano is still considered active today.
It is pretty stunning to look at. This morning the sky was bright blue, interrupted by the crisp outlines of one green mountain after another, and rays of sun bounced all over the valley - warming things up and eliminating the mist of the night before.
We saddled up 3 lovely natured (if a little skinny and in need of a hoof trim) horses and headed off, over a mountain to the other side of the massive crater. It was incredible. That experience will have to come close to riding bikes along the carribbean coast. Simply because I felt as one with my surroundings and the culture - doing what is the custom and feeling how they feel.
The air was so fresh, the sun was beating down and - on the other side of the crater - the humidty produced beautiful sections of forest. The fact that the setting was all volcanic added to the richness of the vegetation. We found some hotpools bubbling with volcanic gases, and saw many many different types of orchid flowering along the pathways.
Actually, everything reminded me a lot of New Zealand´s scenery. The volcanic landscape, the rivers, the subalpine scrub, and the farms nestled against the mountains were all so similar to ours.
Our ride took us up and over a couple of mountains (lava domes) in the middle of the crater and lasted about 4 blissful hours. I will never forget the feeling of elation I had as we stood on top of the mountain looking out towards the blue horizon. Perhaps it was just the lack of oxygen to my brain from being at over 3000m above sea level, but it was good.
An absolutely wonderful couple own the ¨Hostal Puluahua¨ where I´m staying. It is still new and only just starting out. I am the only guest here and am being treated sooo well. I love it!
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