It is common to see non-native vegetation in the Andes. It was disappointing to see all the pine trees planted in Cotopaxi National Park. Almost everywhere else, one encounters eucalyptus, which grows very well here, but takes the nutrients from the soil so that native plants do not survive. The eucalyptus was imported with good intentions, but has spread like a weed and is difficult to eliminate. The 'Pasachoa Protected Forest' is a long sloping valley which preserves the original lush, wooded state of the area surrounding Quito. Primary and secondary forest spreads in every direction, with paramo on the top of Pasachoa mountain. Apparently there is a family of condors living at the top of the extinct crater, and there is a six hour trail to the top of the mountain.
I had to cook crepes and serve nutella and banana crepes at the Academia Cotopaxi International festival for the morning (I am not sure why I volunteered to do that), after which Maya and I rushed home to change and catch the Ecovia to the Rio Coca bus station. The bus to Cumbaya is fast and efficient and costs 25 cents for me and 12 cents for Maya! We met Maria and her son Gabriel and drove through Cumbaya, Tumbaco and San Rafael to find a cobblestoned one lane road to Pasachoa. It had started to rain slightly and the skies were threatening to interfere with our plans to hike for the afternoon. We persisted, hoping that the blue peeking through the clouds would prevail.
It felt good to get out of the city and breathe the ever fresher air. Pasachoa feels so far removed from the city. The air is sweet smelling and clean and the vegetation lush and wet. The lower part is a cloud forest, and there is much bamboo and Maya and I heard the plain tailed wren singing. We were excited to hear the song persistently throughout our walk.
There are several looping paths of varying lengths; I would love to have hiked to the crater, but it was late and Maya always refuses to walk too far. Yet, once on the path with Gabriel, the two were both like mountain goats, scrambling up and down without hesitation. They pretended to be 'avatars' from the recent movie, and had a wonderful time together. Maria and I admired the gorgeous vegetation and flowers. We heard birds all over the place and saw a few hummingbirds briefly, but the birds generally stayed out of sight. We ran into a 'pavo' or turkey- like bird which stayed for a second or so on a branch before blundering away. Small gentle drops of rain persisted throughout our walk, but did not interfere with our appreciation of the scenery.
The best part of the walk was the smell; of flowers, grass, freshness, wildness, perhaps of a few wild animals too. Just breathing in the air was heavenly. I felt overwhelmed with the intense green all around me. The grass near the bottom of the mountain, where llamas were munching away, was thick and like a cushion one could sink into, not resembling grass I had ever seen before.