The Afternoon is Even Better

Thursday, 5 July (Part II)

We had a great first half of the day (post here), but Lincoln had some tricks up his sleeve that made the afternoon even better when we set out exploring once again after a tasty meal.  After all, at heart, we are nature people.

First, a calorie-burning hike.  Well, not really.  It was more like a short stroll, but there were some stairs at the beginning of the trail that gave us a few moments of huffing and puffing until we remembered we weren’t in a race.  No one to race with anyway; we had the place to ourselves.

Wildflowers along the trail add color to our walk.
Lincoln told me the names of these, but I neglected to write them down (bad, bad Erin).
the only one I know for sure is the red flower, which is called bomarea;
The yellow one might be Calceolaria, but I am not positive.

Our reward at the end of the short walk was Lago de Cuicocha, a crater lake that fills the caldera of a dormant volcano by the same name, and lies at the foot of another volcano — Cotacachi.  Yes, to say that we’re in volcano country would not be an understatement — some extinct, some dormant, and some still very much active.

OH, WOW!  No way does my photo do justice to this place.  When Lincoln pointed out the 8+ mile (14 km) Las Orquideas (the orchids) trail that one can hike around the rim of the crater, I had a moment of regret that we didn’t have time to do it.  Even with the altitude ranging from 9,300-10,350 feet (3,100-3,450 m), it would have been doable for us as an all day outing.  But then, had that been the plan, we would have been unable to enjoy the other experiences that filled our day.  So, I filed this one in the ‘next time’ category and simply enjoyed the moment.

2 miles (3 km) wide and 656 feet (200 m) deep, the lake gets its name from a Quichua word that means Lago de Cuy (Guinea pig lake) in reference to the shape of the largest island on the lake.

What I wouldn’t have given for my 10-22mm lens at that moment!  Oh wait, I sold that lens; darn!  As it was sprinkling when we arrived at the overlook, I couldn’t take the time to shoot multiple images for a pano-stitch either.  But here’s a great picture someone else took to give you a better idea of the grand scenery that was laid out before our eyes.  The trail follows the mountain rim all around the lake.

Cuicocha Crater

posted by permission From ©haddock (coincidentally, a fellow İzmİrİte by the name of Yilmaz Tan).
[click the photo to see it in his gallery on flickr.]

It really was a shame that the light was so lackluster in the direction of the lake.  By contrast, the light was a little better in the opposite direction where the dramatic and breathtaking valley scenery was laid out before our eyes — remember the house we almost bought ♥♥♥.

I just can’t get over the breathtaking landscape.

Time does not stand still for people with a limited time in a given place, so onward we moved from this beautiful spot.  Since we had not spent much time in the markets, we had some spare time to check out San Antonio de Ibarra, known for its wood carvings, which Lincoln thought we might enjoy seeing.

A lot of the carvings in the shops were religious in nature and weren’t of interest,
but these oversized wood sculptures in the park were fun.

I’ve mentioned previously my fascination with murals.  So, when I found a few on a wall on one side of a small plaza, I couldn’t resist taking some photos — of course.  Mui left me to have my fun and went to check out some of the shops that rim the plaza.  He came back empty handed, which is a good thing considering we don't have much weight to spare in our luggage.

Unlike the hustle and bustle of the plazas of Quito, this place is quite peaceful.

Colorful murals depict scenes from the area.
(above and below)

It was past 4:00p when we made our last stop of the day.  We had to backtrack a bit, but I’m glad Lincoln indulged us.  The Catarata de Peguche (Peguche Waterfall) was definitely a hi-lite of our day.

Legend has it that during the time of the Incas, the waterfall was used as a place to
bathe before the Inti Raymi.  as such, it has mystical value for the locals.

The 59-foot (18 m) tall waterfall is just a short five-minute drive from Otavalo.  It is located within a watershed area, with signs along the easy-to-walk path reminding visitors of the importance of protecting the environment.  This was another place where we could easily spend hours, but we didn’t have that luxury this time.  Yes, it goes on our ever-growing ‘next time’ list.  (There’s a visitor center where we logged in and paid a small donation; the money is used to maintain this beautiful natural area.)

Left: A flume redirects some of the water into a creek.
right: the upper cataract from mirador arcoiris (Rainbow Lookout).

Instead of returning to the parking lot the same way we came in, we took a narrow path along the creek into which some of the water from the falls is channeled.  Walking amidst the eucalyptus trees, we felt tiny indeed.  Nature’s cathedral, with its towering trees, was an incredibly serene setting — the chirping of the birds and the trickling sounds the water made as the creek danced over rocks was the symphony accompanying us.  That we had the trail to ourselves made our walk that much more enjoyable.  A perfect way to end our sightseeing, even if we did then have to deal with huge traffic tie-ups in Quito that added at least another hour to our already two-hour drive back to the city.

The eucalyptus forest walk — Such a wonderfully peaceful setting.

Tomorrow, we go out with Lincoln again; this time heading south.  In an effort to relieve the awful traffic congestion, the city has instituted driving restrictions based on license plate numbers.  Tomorrow is Lincoln’s day to observe those restrictions, which means he can’t drive into the city between 7:00-9:30a.  Initially, we planned to start at 6:30a, but we’re going to start a little later at 7:30a instead; Lincoln has made arrangements for someone who has the ‘right’ license plate number to pick us up and take us to a meeting point just outside the city line.

If we have half as much fun tomorrow as we did today, it will be another great day exploring the highlands of Ecuador.


  1. Sometimes the light does not cooperate. When you have limited time you have to make the best of it...and you always do! Thanks for the gorgeous images.

  2. Great second half of the day. Those are some very interesting places:)

  3. Wow. We could easily fill up two weeks just wandering around on day trips from Quito. Fantastic reporting, keep it coming.
    Poor Señor Blockhead. Idiomatically speaking...even though his hands were tied, he tried to turn over a new leaf, but soon discovered he should have quit while he was a-head!

  4. Wow, your pictures of Equator are beautiful. This is definitely on our "list" to visit. We were hoping to drive down to Argentina this winter but we're not sure that will happen this time, maybe the winter after.

    So glad that you had such a good trip.

    Kevin and Ruth

  5. [re-posted fm CC]
    Thanks for sharing. I'm really enjoying your blog. We go the end of October, and your blog really heightens the anticipation! I have also greatly enjoyed several of your other blogs and reviews.

  6. The falls are magnificent but that path alongside the little creek is what calls my name. Beautiful.

  7. Your shot of the trail makes me want to put my hiking shoes on. Are those some type of seed pods from the trees on the trail?

    1. Yes, those are seed pods; but not from the towering eucalyptus trees. I think they were from the paper trees (named for its paper-like bark).