Northern Ecuador and a Magical Forest

Dayana in Polylepis

Getting to know something new in the beauty of creation always causes indescribable curiosity. This thirst and spirit for adventure evolves, so that I and my friends decided to travel to the Northern Ecuadorian Highlands.

The mountains with their amazing natural colors attracted our attention. At our first stop in the city of Cayambe suddenly the snow-capped Cayambe Volcano appeared and far away in the south we could espy the Cotopaxi. After arriving there, a delicious breakfast with hot chocolate, “biscochos” (buttery salty biscuits from Cayambe) and “queso de hoja” (cheese in the form of cylinder wrapped in achira leaves) waited for us.

Full of new energy we continued to the lake “San Pablo” that like a mirror reflected the Imbabura volcano. Having arrived at Otavalo we visited the famous indigenous market where the “Otavaleños” sell their finest textile designs. Of course we purchased some souvenirs.

imbabura-volcano
Heading farther north, the landscape impressed with its fertile soil, green valleys and extensive cities. We advanced through the sinuous mountain chains to the landscape of the páramo “El Ángel.” Finally we had a real feeling of adventure – which we were originally seeking for – caused by the road conditions with mud and huge holes.

At this time we already covered a distance of 170 km (106 miles) and finally reached the long desired forest of Polylepis trees, also known as “paper trees.” A little valley in the reserve of “El Àngel” (3523 m / 11,558 ft above sea level) wins over due to its natural beauty and mysterious magical charm.

polylepis-forest
The people of this area tell a legend of love which explains the forest’s mystery. A woman called Ishuquinua, who suppresses her feelings, and a little forest ghost named Curupi, hairy and ugly, live in the forest. They are represented by a Pumamaqui and a Polylepis tree. Both of them wait for being rescued by a virgin woman.
Frailejones
We also discovered that this forest is home to many frailejon trees with elegant yellow flowers in the middle of the páramo.

There we were, in the middle of the páramo, enjoying the close contact to nature, the fresh air, being happy to live the adventure we had been looking for.

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