Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day in the Clouds

Hiking in the Clouds

We were invited to visit Andres' farm in Cotopaxi today and Maya was anticipating an afternoon of horsebackriding, but we did not hear from Andres ( I do not understand this behaviour; inviting us, confirming the invitation, and then not following through. This is not the first time I have had this happen to us since we arrived in Ecuador). I had insisited thatEric drive back from Yanayacu to join us with Andres and his family. Instead, we decided to take a drive on the 'EcoRuta', which is on the old road to Mindo. We had a vague idea of how to find the route, but did not have much luck finding the 'Occidental' which is the peripheral road around Quito. We found ourselves on ' Mariscal Sucre' and suddenly on the road to 'Nono' which happened to be the road we were looking for.

View of Quito From Above

Mountain Flowers

The road climbs up the side of Pichincha volcano, presenting us with an expansive view of the city and the mountains beyond. It was a bumpy road, cobblestone for stretches or gravel with huge ruts after all the rain we have had these last few days. The towns along the way were ragged and garbage was everywhere, not a good introduction to our 'ecoroute'. I am not sure if the people actually understand the impact of dumping their trash in a canyon along the road; it may be away from their homes, but it remains for years and years around the corner and no one has any intention of cleaning it up.

Our first stop on the 'EcoRoute' was at Yanacocha, which is a reserve about 20 kilometres from Nono. A young man named Jose presented himself as we drove by a newly opening hacienda at the entrance to the reserve and asked if we would like him to guide us for $5. We weren't sure whether to trust him or not, and my original plan was to drive much further before we stopped, but somehow we found ourselves with Jose in the car directing us through the reserve past a couple of large haciendas to his home on 12 hectares. He explained that his grandfather had once owned thousands of hectares all around Nono, but had lost alot during some sort of land redistribution. He picked up his scope and bird books and assured us that he was a guide and if we wanted to see birds he would show us birds.

I thought we would go up to the 'Alto Peru' mountain and explore flora and fauna higher up, but instead he took us down a steep and muddy path to look at a small waterfall. The rains had washed the paths away, so we scrambled in the dirt and mud and our ten minute walk became a scramble down and up a steep hill. We were entirely unprepared without our usual 'botas' and I was worried that I would get hurt along the way. I hardly paid attention to the waterfalls, and focused entirely on getting out intact. Our walk back through fields and several electric fences took a couple of hours. Green expanses and mountains spread out before us. It was a peaceful quiet walk, with a few drops of rain here and there. There were cows and roosters and dogs and a few farmers to greet on our hike. We were muddy and wet and relieved to find ourselves back at the Landcruiser after a wild ride on the back of a truck with a family for the last few kilometers.

Muddy But Intact

After stopping at his 'finca' where he changed out of his dirty boots, Jose took us to Nono along a narrow and unpaved road which hugged the side of the mountain and somehow we managed to share the path with buses and trucks and did not fall off the cliff. Whew! Nono is a small town with the usual central plaza, which was empty on a Sunday. Jose led us to a very basic 'bar/restaurante' for a simple lunch (soup, papaya juice and chicken, rice and beans with avocado) for $1.50 each. We had expressed interest in trout, so Jose wanted to take us trout fishing, but he brought us to his aunt's house instead, where we were supposed to rest. I was confused as to what the agenda was, I think that Jose just wanted us to see how beautiful the valley was. Eric found a hummingbird nest with a baby bird resting, and Jose's aunt picked some taxo fruit from her tree for me, and Eric and I climbed up the hill for some good views and photographs, and soon it came to be too late for fishing.

Mountain View

I had no idea how far we were from Quito or how long it would take to get there, so we decided to drive back, which did not take long at all. It felt as if we were far far away from the city, but we were truly just around the corner. We stopped at 'Ecolodge San Jorge' where we had a tour of the premises and Maya and I watched hummingbirds fly around and feed. The hacienda is an option for the students in January, in a beautiful setting above Quito, with great views and possibilities for activities and adventures up Rucu Pichincha and the surrounding valleys.

When we arrived home, I realized we had only just started on the 'EcoRuta' that I had read about. I think the route can be completed in one day if no stops are made, and several days if you do it the way we did. I learned that there is much to see and do very close to Quito in Pichincha province, but in the short time we have left here, we will not be able to see it all. Que lastima!

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