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Lakes, volcanoes and why we’re all here

Friday, 07 August 2015 00:00

Tom Shearman from Andean Trails, a UK based travel company offering adventure holidays in South America, came to visit us in Ecuador and we took him off for a couple of beautiful days hiking in the Northern Andes. This is what he had to say of his experience.

“And that’s why humans go against natural selection.”

Hiking at high altitude may induce some lightheadedness, yet in the beautiful Zuleta valley, my Original Ecuador guide’s erudite take on Darwin had twisted my cranium into an extra spin.

I tried to formulate an answer, but the beautiful quinoa flowers we had stopped to photograph, all purples and reds, seemed to whisper to me on a zephyr…just enjoy the place, the time and the sharing of ideas.

Two Days, Many Things

Ecuador-Cuicocha-HikeI’d first met Andres and Emma 48 hours earlier outside my Quito hotel. We chatted enthusiastically during the two-hour drive to Cuicocha and I knew it’d be a good couple of days.

History and astronomy ticked off at the equator monument, we parked at the foot of our first volcano, Cuicocha.

Boots laced, packs box lunched-up and sun shining, we started the gentle pull up the right flank, its lake’s crystal blue waters to our side, views over the valley with Cayambe and Imbabura volcanoes to our right.

“It’s an ideal acclimatization hike,” said Andreas, and even though I’d been in Quito a few days, the rarified new heights in the clean and light mountain air still tugged at my lungs.

The 270-degree walk around the crater rim took us close to a rugged rock face and down into a cloud forest, where lizards scamper around.

Find a Bargain

Otavalo-Market-WeavingsAnd lose a bargain. We headed next to the famous Otavalo market, replete with colourful Andean fabrics that waved like leaves in the winds of a coming downpour.

I found some top quality silver jewelry, snaffled as a gift, later lost in a launderette’s washing machine in Galapagos. The bowl I bought, too, was fantastic - I’d recommend the market for shopping as it’s very relaxed, especially if you avoid Saturdays.

One lovely ice-cream stop later and we made our short hop to our overnight lodging.

Four hours walking, a market tour, a lovely steak and a wine or two was just the right amount of everything to make me fall deeply asleep in the enormous and soft bed in the shushed Hacienda Chorlavi.


Zuleta-Hike-EcuadorIf the first day was views, this second walk was views plus Andean life.

First up a young local lad sorting the tomato harvest to send to market. “A dying trade,” Andreas explained. “Kids want different jobs, they are leaving these areas.”

As we climbed up into Zuleta, eucalyptus plantations were replaced by small farms. ‘Typical’ Andean views abounded, with capped locals tilling the land by hand as cows and horses roamed the fields. The locals were all well seasoned.

We walked and talked through the patchwork land, we saw women spinning and weaving in the sun, producing fine embroidery.

Such relaxing and natural environs were what made me think about the world and everyone and everything’s place in it.

I have a terrible memory. I can’t remember all the names of the plants, all the animals and all the fantastic tales that Andres and Emma shared with me.

I can’t even really remember all of Andres’ incredibly intelligent and weighted arguments about biology and evolution.

Yet they’ve all melded into a blur of a great two days in a magical place with lovely people. I wish I could’ve gone for longer.

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