ECUADOR: BACK TO THE ANDES

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WHEN WE STOPPED TO BUY JAM AND CHEESE ON THE ROAD FROM MINDO WE MET A FRUIT GROWER FROM THE LOWER VALLEYS. HE WAS TAKING HIS HARVEST TO THE  MARKET IN QUITO AND VERY KINDLY GAVE US  SOME BAGS OF HIS PRODUCE. THESE ARE CALLED PITAYA AND ARE MUCH LIKE A LYCHE. THEY WIN NO PRIZES FOR THEIR LOOKS BUT ARE VERY TASTY.  EN S’ARRETANT ACHETER DU FROMAGE  ET DE LA CONFITURE EN BORD DE ROUTE, (ON  ACHETE COMME CA, AU FUR ET A MESURE DES OFFRANDES) VERS MINDO, NOUS RENCONTRONS UN AGRICULTEUR LOCAL EN PARTANCE POUR LA CAPITALE POUR VENDRE SES FRUITS.  ON DISCUTE ET ILS NOUS OFFRE UN GRAND SAC DE CES CHOSES VELUES, ET LAIDES, DES PITAYAS, ET QUI, AU GOUT,  RESSEMBLENT AU LICHI. TRES BON.   ENCORE UNE FOIS, , UNE PURE GENTILLESSE. 
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AFTER A NIGHT OF HEAVY RAIN IN MINDO A LANDSLIDE BLOCKED THE ROAD FOR AN HOUR WHILST THEY CLEARED IT WITH DIGGERS. WE DECIDED TO LEAVE THE MAIN ROAD AND HEAD INTO RURAL ECUADOR. THIS IS OUR LUNCH STOP BESIDE A SMALL RIVER. MINDO NE NOUS RETIENT PAS CAR IL PLEUT FORT. NOUS REUSSISSONS QUAND MEME A ACHETER DU CHOCOLAT CHEZ UN  PRODUCTEUR, LE MEILLEUR DU MEILLEUR!  NOUS REPARTONS POUR ETRE ARRETE AUSSITOT PAR UNE COULEE DE BOUE BLOQUANT LA ROUTE.  APRES UNE HEURE D’ATTENTE DANS LE VACARME DES ENGINS JAUNES, INOUS DECIDONS DE PRENDRE DES CHEMINS DE TRAVERSE ET PARTONS SUR LES MAUVAISES ROUTES RURALES. POUR OTAVALO.  ICI, UN ARRET DEJEUNER, PRES D’UNE RIVIERE.
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THE ROADS OF RURAL ECUADOR ARE QUITE SOMETHING – YOU DON’T GO ANYWHERE VERY FAST, BUT LUCKILY NO MORE BIG LANDSLIDES TO STOP US. WE ARE ON OUR WAY TO THE COTOCACHI CAYAPAS RESERVE, THOUGH ONLY ARRIVED AFTER THE GATES HAD SHUT FOR THE DAY SO WE MADE A BIVOUAC NOT FAR FROM THE ENTRANCE. IF THERE WASN’T SO MUCH MIST YOU MIGHT SEE THE TOWN OF OTAVALO IN THE BACKGROUND. THE WEATHER HAS NOT BEEN SO GREAT SINCE LEAVING THE COAST. NOW WE ARE AT THREE THOUSAND  METRES AND A LOT COOLER.  IN THE NIGHT WE HAD A MASSIVE THUNDER STORM THAT SHOOK THE CAR AND WE COULD ONLY HOPE ALL THE HILLS STAYED IN PLACE. WE DIDN’T FANCY BEING SWEPT DOWN THE HILL IN A MUD SLIDE! LES ROUTES PRINCIPALES SONT EXCELLENTES,, MAIS ENNUYEUSES ET PREFEREES DES CAMIONS.  NOUS PREFERONS BATTRE LA CAMPAGNE MAIS  FINI LE BLING BLING, NOUS SOMMES SUR DES PISTES CAILLOUTEUSES OU BOUEUSES, NAVIGUANT ENTRE LES NIDS DE  POULES.  ILFAIT MAUVAIS TEMPS DEPUIS QUE NOUS AVONS QUITTE LA COTE. AU PARC NATIONAL COTOCACHI-CAYAPAS, A 3000 m, IL FAIT FROID AUSSI.  NOUS ARRIVONS TROP TARD POUR ENTRER  DANS LE PARC ET DEVONS BIVOUQUER UN PEU PLUS BAS SUR UN TERRE-PLEIN HERBEUX., AVEC VUE SUR OTAVALO.  NOUS ESSUYONS UNE TEMPETE  TOUTE LA NUIT AVEC DES  ECLAIRS FOUDROYANTS QUI FONT TREMBLER LA ROULOTTE.   JE ME METS A CRAINDRE UN GLISSEMENT DE TERRAIN.  MAUVAISE NUIT! LE LENDEMAIN  NOUS  PARTONS EN RANDO.
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LAGUNA DE CUICOCHA IS THE CRATER OF AN ANCIENT VOLCANO. AT SOME TIME TWO ISLANDS APPEARED WE ARE SAID TO REPRESENT THE SHAPE OF TWO GUINEA PIGS SIDE BY SIDE, HENCE THE NAME – “LAKE OF THE GUINEA PIGS”. LA LAGUNE  DE CUICOCHA EST LE CRATERE D’UN VOLCAN.  2 ILOTS APPARRURENT, REPRESENTANT LA FORME D’UN COCHON D’INDE, D’OU SON NOM, “LA LAGUNE DES COCHONS D’INDE”.  CES PETITES BETES SONT UNE OBSESSION NATIONAE.
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THE WALK AROUND THE RIM OF THE CRATER IS  14 KILOMETRES. IT BEGINS AT AN ALTITUDE OF THREE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED METRES AND RISES TO THREE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED METRES.. FOR OUR FIRST BIT OF EXERCISE SINCE GOODNESS KNOWS WHEN THIS CAME AS QUITE SHOCK..  JE RESSORTS MON BATON DE MARCHE ARGENTIN, QUI A RESISTE  AUX BARBEQUES SI SOUVENT, POUR UNE RANDO DE 14 KILOMETRES AUTOUR DU CRATERE, ENTRE 3100 ET 3500 METRES.  POUR UNE PREMIERE DEPUIS DES LUSTRES, C’EST EPUISANT! NOUS LUI REGLONS SON COMPTE EN 4H30, LE GARDE DU PARC EST CONTENTS DE NOUS!!ABC
THIS IS THE SOUTHERN SECTION OF THE  COTACACHI CAYAPAS RESERVE AND STRETCHES FROM THE HIGH ANDES DOWN TO THE LOWLANDS IN THE WEST. THE REMOTE AREAS ARE HOME TO THE ELUSIVE SPECTACLED BEAR.  BOUQUETS DE FLEURS  ET COLIBRIS EGAYENT NOTRE MARCHE. ON S’ARRETE SOUVENT POUR ADMIRER LA NATURE…..ET POUR SOUFFLER!!
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DURING THE WALK AROUND THE RIM OF THE LAGUNA WE CAME ACROSS DRAMATIC DISPLAYS OF WILD FLOWERS AND HUMMING BIRDS OF STUNNING COLOURS.
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WE ARE NOW IN OTAVALO STAYING AT A CAMPSITE OWNED BY DENNIS, AN AMERICAN WHOSE BEEN LIVING IN ECUADOR FOR SOME YEARS. IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS WE SHALL BE HEADING ACROSS THE BORDER TO COLUMBIA.  NOUS SOMMES MAINTENANT A OTAVALO, ATTENDANT L’OUVERTURE DE LA FRONTIERE FERMEE COTE COLOMBIEN POUR CAUSE D’ELECTIONS LEGISLATIVES. 

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