Remarkable Views and Villages of Ecuador’s Andes Mountains.

The fertile Tabacundo valley north-east of Quito is where hundreds of thousands of roses are grown year-round for export. It’s known as a world capital of hardy roses, with hectares of rose greenhouses, side by side, stretching as far as the eye can see.  Over 90 percent of the locals here work in this industry of packing roses full time.  Each huge, hardy long stem rose is measured, cut, and packaged by the dozen, then flown across the globe and delivered fresh, within a couple of days.  The greenhouse I visit has two hectares of land, which produces 4,000 roses a day.  At 3,000 meters altitude, in the foothills of the Mojanda Volcano of the Andes, these are ideal growing conditions, with ample year-round rain and comfortable temperatures that never go below freezing.  Individual rose stems grow for between three to six months, depending upon the species, before they are perfectly shaped and ready for harvesting.

Our day mountain hiking in between two volcanos, known as Fuya Fuya, is an impressive adventure.  From the Otavalo Valley we drive 20 kilometers, much of it up a steep, winding, and uneven cobblestone road, built by the Inca hundreds of years ago.  The road ends at 3,700 meters up, where the stunningly beautiful Laguna (Lake) Mojanda glistens, encircled by rolling meadows of tufted grassland and tiny delicate flowers that extend up to the meandering spine of broken crater walls surrounding it.  We proceed higher on foot, to over 4,000 meters, walking slowly and resting often, to gaze out over the spectacular panorama, a grand backdrop of the collapsed, then flooded, caldera.

Native Ecuadorians, especially those living near Otavalo, are particularly proud to live where the earth bulges, at its widest part, which was proven to be so in the early 1700s.  At the official equator there is a monument, an amusing historical museum, plus antidotal games proving its uniqueness, such as watching water drain in different directions on either side of the meridian.

My key fascination here is the creative artistry of locals.  At Jose’s studio, he makes wooden instruments like classical guitars, flutes, and Maracas, seen on his wall, behind where he is playing a long horn.  Martita, dressed in traditional embroidery, sang for us, then allowed us to admire her handiwork, including the colourful woven tie in her long hair. If someone entertains you it is customary and polite to thank and honour their time and workmanship with a purchase. Luzmila, a well-known resident weaver, dyes her own wool from seeds, crushed leaves, and fruit juices. She spends days, even weeks, seated on floor mats, or at her loom, producing each of her individualized hangings that signify life found in Ecuador. These can be purchased at her home or at village markets. 

The Condor Park is an entertaining attraction for all ages.  It’s a rescue and rehabilitation sanctuary for birds of prey.  The hilltop property includes spacious gardens along the walkways, in between the species enclosures and an open-air amphitheatre with daily one-on-one, bird and trainer, demonstrations. I enjoy watching the erratic strutting character of the Cara Cara bird and I am impressed with the acrobatic manoeuvres of eagles and falcons as they catch live worms thrown into the air by their trainer as they fly past. The Harpy Eagle is fascinating with its intense focused staring.  The Andean Condor, although declining in numbers, is the largest flying bird in the world. It is a national symbol of Ecuador, and it appears at the center of the country flag.

Our final day in the Otavalo Valley is overcast, but this doesn’t hinder our spirits. We shop at several outdoor markets and visit the gorgeous crater Laguna Cuicocha, part of a magnificent cordillera, at 3,300 meters, which is 3 km across and includes several naturally wild islands near one end.

Hikers can take the 10 km rim trail or the more challenging steep pathways going down towards the water. We enjoy the views and celebrate our final luncheon together with our fantastic guide Stefy, before heading back to Quito.

ADVENTURES IN ECUADOR BY WILDERNESS TRAVELLER CYNTHIA PERCIVAL.

Author: LivingSpaces

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