In the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve

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Otavalo is mainly known for its Poncho market and the business acumen of its habitants. Since a cycling traveller might take along only memories, we rather planned to ascent the near vulcano Cotacachi (4935m) spending one night in the tents. Looking desperately for hiking boots in the whole village, I could find only shoes up to size 40. I finally squeezed my size 42-feet into one pair. In this moment (and in the many painful moments to come), I somewhat questioned my concept of lightweight travelling: to buy stuff only on the fly, when needed.
Arriving with full-fledged camping equipment at the beautiful Laguna de Cuicocha, a deep blue lake in the former crater, the guardian of the national park prevented us from going further: camping is permitted only with a local guide. After some disappointment, we left the major part of the luggage with him (as I later noticed, we still carried Andi´s heavy stove!) and went for a nice 5 hour tour around the lake.
When we returned at dark, a heavily armed guy guarded our luggage, but, alas!, in deep sleep. To not wake him up, we smuggled silently our luggage out of the open door. Staying the night in a hut at the lagoon, we met David, since 10 years development worker in the region, who told us about the ongoing and dreadful struggle between the Andenean tribes and the big oil companies.

Early the next morning at 4 a.m. we passed again the guardian’s gate to walk up a long and stony road in the mist for a couple of hours. The bright half-moon accompanied us. Here the moon is not standing vertically but lying horizontally like a cradle. We reached the trailhead at 4100m shortly after sunrise. While the view reached even to Quito on the far horizon, the summit was covered by low hanging clouds and proceeding was pointless. Coming back after 8 hours of walk with blisters on my feet, we spent the afternoon watching the lake.