Hiking in the Andes

GHS began our hiking adventures in the Pyrenees outside of Barcelona and continued them in Laos and Thailand. We felt like we had really perfected our hiking in Queenstown, New Zealand but then we arrived in Otavalo, Ecuador. One of the must-do activities here is to hike the paths around the three crater lakes in the caldera of Fuya Fuya Volcano. Our hotel was adamant that we required a guide because of the variability in conditions and the high altitude and so we agreed to hire Christian who turned out to be a great companion on this adventure.

After being warned by Christian that we needed rain gear, warm layers and lots of water and sunscreen we set off in a van and a taxi for the 40-minute ride over cobblestone roads to our starting point. It seems hard to believe that a taxi could pass a bus on a road that size but, as we learned, it is possible if a bit (or maybe even a lot) scary. The road may have been rough, curvy and steadily uphill but our driver took it all in stride and the views were worth the ride. The road ended at an elevation of 3700 metres where we set out on our 3-hour walk (our pace really doesn’t warrant the descriptor “hike”) through the caldera.

We were so proud of how we handled the high altitude. Christian had warned us that it might be very difficult for us to complete the hike even though we have been in the area for 4 days and are becoming acclimated. He encouraged us to start slowly, to take breaks and to stop and enjoy the scenery and nature. We heard lots of interesting stories about the history of the indigenous people, were introduced to various types of plants and took lots of “selfies” surrounded by beautiful vistas. Best of all we were successful and accomplished our goal with energy to spare.

Christian had promised to take us to his favourite place on the return leg if the weather cooperated. The skies stayed bright and sunny and so we were able to follow him up a little path we would never have noticed had we been alone. It led us up (is there any other direction?) through grasslands to a hill with a perfect view of the volcanos and the lakes. Some students built a human pyramid, others posed and jumped for pictures and we all just generally enjoyed being in Ecuador surrounded by nature (with no other tourists or even locals) on a perfect day.