From our hostel in Cotacachi, we took a van up to the national park of Cotacachi Cayapas. There we embarked on a 14km (8.7 miles) hike around la Laguna de Cuicochi. Gasping for breath at an elevation of just over 10,000ft, we stopped frequently to listen to Claudio Moralas. We learned about nearly every plant along the trail. Claudio explained the medicinal uses of plants, identified gorgeous and unique orchids and wild Andean onions, and demonstrated the dying effects of the sanchi plant. Obsessed with the rouge juice of sanchi, our hands, faces and hair were soon covered. Later we discovered it was an effective sunblock. Too bad we didn't apply sanchi to our ears.
We we remained high above the lake, but learned there are no fish to be caught. All the fish of the lake died several years back when the active volcano's toxic gases bubbled up into the caldera's waters. You can hire a boat to float the waters, but access to the caldera's two islands closed after devistating human-caused fires ripped through both islands.
By Julianne Kellogg
About this blog:
2016 is the first year for Kevin Murphy’s Neotropical Agroecology class in Ecuador. Students will spend two weeks in Ecuador meeting with, learning from and working alongside farmers, artisans, naturalists and/or ecologists in two distinct ecosystems. During the first week, we will focus on the agroecology and social ecology of northern Ecuador. This will include visits to Puembo, Cotacachi, Otavalo and Peguche in the Andean highlands, followed by three days in the Intag Cloud Forest region on the western slope of the Andes Mountains. The second week will be spent in Quito area in Ilalo, followed by a journey south to the high altitude areas around Riobamba and Cañar. In Quito, we will visit agrosilvopastoral farming systems, seed sovereignty organizations, local farms, Slow Food Ecuador, among other exciting adventures. In Cañar, we will visit and work with an indigenous Cañari farmer association of seed and grain producers. The trip will end in Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador.