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Ecuador Lake District Trek

This privately guided trekking adventure through Ecuador's Lake District take you through the country's single-most diverse protected area: the Cayambe- Coca Ecological Reserve.  This area is an important watershed for the forests on both the Pacific and Amazon sides of the Andes.

Although you won't trek so high, the highest point within this reserve is the Cayambe Volcano at 5,790m (18,997 feet). Melt waters from its ice caps descend through ten different ecological zones within the reserve and down to the Amazon rainforest.  Keeping one eye open for condors, you will spend four days trekking in Ecuador's Lake District, including in the paramo and the world's highest forests of the incredibly slow growing Polylepis tree. Your trek ends with a relaxing stay at a first class resort at the therapeutically relaxing Papallacta mineral hot springs.


Day 1

You will be collected from your hotel in Quito by your private guide and vehicle and travel by road to Hacienda Rancho Alto. After a short briefing and time to prepare, you will begin your hike at 3,380m trekking through mixed high altitude vegetation which includes the world's highest growing trees: the Polylepis. There will be some impressive scenery of granite walls and streams and hopefully you will see condors, eagles and falcons.

Your camp site will be set up for you at 3,750m within one of the most important patches of Polylepis forest in Ecuador, because it acts as a watershed for the country's capital, Quito. The rural location belongs to the community of Sigsipamba.

Day 2

You will begin your walking through some very photogenic scenery looking out for Condors, Black Chested Buzzard Eagles, Hummingbirds and Caracaras as we pass between mountain lakes. Mammals which hide out in this area include Pumas, the Andean fox, Spectacled Bears, Andean Hares, Red Brocket Deer and White Tailed Deer. The scenery will change from Andean forest to more open paramo, which is a tundra-like ecosystem composed of tussock grass, clumps of low flowering plants and dispersed trees such as Quishuar.

The trail passes near waterfalls, provides some beautiful views and your camp site will be beside the spectacular Nunalviro Lake.

Day 3

Trekking alongside the Nunalviro Lake, you will trek eastwards crossing swamplands and and amongst tall grasses until you reach the South American Continental Divide.  This area is sometimes visitied by deer and spectacled bears that enjoy eating the flower of Achupallas.  Once in the Continental Divide you might be able to see Salvefaccha Lake and the impressive volcanic peaks of Antisana and Cayambe. You will then descend to San Lorenzo over the obsidian flow of Yaragala, which is part of the Chacana super volcano.  This site is of great importance as the early inhabitants of Ecuador gathered the obsidian for elaborating tools such as spears, knives and axes.

You will meet a vehicle at the end of your trek today. After an hour and a half, you will reach the Papallacta hot springs where relaxation and a spa awaits as a reward after the epic journey in the Andes.
(B, L, D)

Day 4

Today we have the morning to relax in this first class resort. Return to Quito after lunch. (B, L)

Photographs kindly provided by Marcelo Meneses, Ralph Pannell, Rainforest Concern


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