Despite what my Facebook photos may imply, I am not as outdoorsy a person as it may appear. However, I am all for new experiences and well I’m in Ecuador, one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet, so while I’m here I plan on taking advantage of this.
During my third weekend here, I took a day trip to the Papallacta (papa-yak-ta) Mountain range, followed by a trip to the nearby baños termales (thermal baths). This was not one of the trips my friends and I organized, it was organized by an unofficial University liaison. I thoroughly enjoyed not having to do any planning, even though I have found myself becoming a bit of an Ecuadorian travel agent. First, things first, let’s talk about the elevation, man oh man was it steep, at our highest point we were at about 14,000ft, which, I felt, with a nice throbbing headache. At this point my body was still acclimating to the higher elevation of Quito, about 9,350ft, if I were to do this climb now I think my body would be better prepared.
The path was simple and clear, but the wind was whipping through us, and it was a lot colder than most of us expected. Luckily, I dressed in layers, and packed some additional as well. Just for reference, I wore a tank top, an athletic turtleneck long sleeve, an athletic high-neck half zip, and my rain jacket. One the bottom, I had on thick athletic leggings, my rain boots, and was equipped with some lightly lined gloves, and a beanie (as shown on my featured photo). The higher we got the more the intense the wind was, and it took about an hour and a half for us to ascend. The day was rather clear and the views were incredible, that is until we got to the very top, then it was cloudy, hence the name cloud forest, where we only got brief glimpses of the beautiful landscape.
Thankfully, the descent down was a lot easier, and much faster then our climb up. It was very apparent we were ‘ones with nature’ , because our guide, Pancho, told us “la tierra es nuestro cuarto de baño”, and yes we used it as such (sorry if that’s tmi). When we finished, we drove for a bit to another location, where the trail was a lot shorter, taking us about thirty minutes to see a waterfall, which was reminiscent of a fairy tale. We stopped in a small town to get lunch, I ordered la trucha (trout), which was delicious, and then we were on our way to soak our aching bodies in the thermal baths. There were several baths of varying degrees, and we worked our way up to the hotter ones, than regressed to the moderate temperature, and even took quick dips into the colder water- they say it’s good for the bodies circulation.
All in all, Papallacta, was fun, beautiful, and challenging, I would highly recommend it to anyway who happened to find themselves in Ecuador, especially if you are close to Quito.