Acclimatisation Trekking and Otavalo

Trip Start Oct 29, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Ecuador  , Imbabura,
Saturday, November 19, 2011

So to kick off the main part of the trip we were doing one week's of acclimatisation trekking (and a bit of shopping – integral for Cotapaxi preparation actually).

The first day we headed north along the Pan American Highway, crossing the equator to Cuicocha Lake. This is a volcanic caldera (a depression in the ground created by the collapse of land after a volcanic eruption) is about 3km and it was formed only 3100 years ago by a massive volcanic eruption. It is situated at the foot of the Cocatchi Volcano. The aim of the day was that we could have day's trekking at between 3000m and 3500m and to start to prepare ourselves for what was to come.

And prepare it did !! Myself and Lesley got a bit of a shock on the first day. The rest of the group were bounding ahead and we were getting a little bit scared by it all, thinking we were with a group of olympic athletes and that we wouldn’t even make it out of the starting blocks. I semi managed to cover-up my inadequacies by taking lots of photos of flowers (since when have you been into flowers Liz?), and each time I stopped to fiddle in a very professional and technical manner (turn it turn the flower setting) I was actually attempting to catch my breath back.  The walk was absolutely stunning though (photos below) and I did actually get some lovely flower photos (not the faintest idea on what they are called though!).  That evening we stayed in a stunning converted hacienda (more flower photos) and got to come down to a more comfortable altitude of 2050m.
So then on the Tuesday we began our acclimatisation preparation proper by heading off on a 4 day trek which was to include camping. The first day was billed as a 3-4 hour walk along a road/track up the village of San Francisco (big bridge, hilly). So all was going fine until Diego our guide decided to take us on a more scenic route and off-road. We ended up heading through muddy jungle sections, which tested most of us quite a lot, but actually proved brilliant for group moral and general hilarity. It was like one of the challenges out of 'I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’. However, I was quite pleased as my fitness did seem to be holding out and I was very impressed by the grip on the new walking boots.

Wednesday and Day 2 of the trek – this was billled as tougher (could it get any tougher than the day before). The path headed out of San Franscisco and headed uphill through beautiful, moss-clad polylepis mountain forests (of course I am lifting this from the trip notes – like I would know what polylepis means – can hardly say it !). We then hit the paramo ! The actual definiton from the t’internet says ‘Páramo (from the Spanish  word for "desolate territory") is a Neotropical ecosystem. It is located in the high elevations, between the upper forest line (about 3000 m altitude) and the permanent snow line (about 5000 m). The ecosystem consists of accidented, mostly glacier formed valleys and plains with a large variety of lakes, peat bogs and wet grasslands intermingled with shrublands and forest patches’. I just call it really long grass, which cuts peoples legs and is generally really quite hard to walk on. We headed up in the hail to a pass of over 4000m before we dropped down in the campsite by one of  the lakes underneath Mount Yanaurco (which apparently we were climbing the next day – I don’t think so!)

Thursday and Day 4 of the trek abd yes we were going to the top of Mount Yanaurco. It was billed in the trip notes as ‘we pass very interesting sections with unique high vegetation’. This literally translated meant – we are going straight uphill, not a path and through nightmare vegetation like that nasty paramo stuff. ‘The ascent is relatively easy but rather steep with a little scrambling near the top’ – take a look at the photo’s – it wasn’t light, it was very steep and it certainly wasn’t easy !! However, when we reached the summit  at 4545m there was a flat section and stunning views. Was actually quite impressed with myself at this point because I did seem to be holding my own in the group and certainly wasn’t too near the back. My favourite moment was when Lesley, who was just in front of me turned around and said ‘We’re doing this aren’t we Liz !!’ and yes we were !! (Finally I was!) Even better was the walk down because I finally learnt how to walk downhill properly (what don’t you just put one foot in front of the other?).  The lovely Dr Anne was behind me and gave me instructions on how to place your foot (pressure on the ball of the foot) and how to use your poles (so it’s not like I’m skiing then?) – it was an absolute revelation. I will now be renting out Anne for a small fee to rambling groups (when she’s not doing very important Dr stuff that is).  

Friday and Day 5 of the trek – this was a hard slog back down the from the Cucharo crater, through forests and farmland back to the hot springs at Chachimbiro and onto the hacienda. We had to come down 1500m and I was tired and just generally having an ‘it’s sucks to be me day’. It seemed to go on forever and even when we got to the hot springs most of us girls decided not to go in (we’d been without a shower for 4 days !! – go figure).

The final part (and a very important element I must add) was the days shopping in Otavalo. This was integral element of the acclimatisation programme. If nothing else we had chance to do a pick of shopping, stock up on the suncream and get the laundry done. Oh and really start to panic about the next day !

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Denise Alkins on

It's such a treat to read about your travels and see your amazing pictures. Enjoy!

Denise Alkins on

I'm loving the market place!

Mum on

Having a garden for five years hasn't improved your knowledge of flowers.

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