Fuya Fuya: 2/5/2007
We drove out of Quito on the Pan Americana heading north to the lago _____. Its beautiful blue water fills a crater ringed with rocky peaks that overlook the town of Otavalo. Mt Fuya Fuya is ~14,000 ft and the acclimatization hike will prepare us for climbing Cotopaxi. On the way to Fuya Fuya, as we passed through little towns, the roads were lined with stands selling all sorts of unknowns. We stopped to try some funky tropical fruits that we had not seen before. One fruit is round and almost scaled on the outside. You just tear it into two parts and the center is filled with delicious white flesh, and large round glossy black seeds. Another super tasty fruit looks like a giant bean pod, like a fava bean pod on steroids (2.5 feet long). This one is filled with black bean/seeds surrounded by pink flesh that you suck off the bean. Yummy! I don’t know what the name of either fruit is. On the drive, we also passed the equator, we moved from the southern hemisphere to the northern, and the line was marked on the road. Interestingly, the people of this region north of the equator, unlike other parts of Ecuador, have made an effort to value and market their native culture. They have successfully built a system of community controlled income exporting woven items and other native crafts. This has allowed them to actively preserve their culture while functioning in the broader capitalist system. Most people here dress in the native cloths, and the houses and towns are cleaner and have less abandoned buildings.
The climb up Fuya Fuya was eye opening. This was the first time we walked in the ‘paramo’, the altiplano, the Andean highland grasslands. It was a botany adventure. We passed through a broad slope populated primarily by large bunch grasses, with an occasional Achupalla, Puya clava-herculis (looks like a century plant), or Chuquirahua bush, Chuquiraga jussieui. The Chuquirahua was recommended to me by a local as a medicinal. Make a tea of it and it helps the stomach and intestinal or menstrual cramps. As we climbed toward the summit, the terrain became rocky and the plants diversified. So many beautiful plants that I had never seen, or even imagined. I had to stop and take a photo every two seconds it seemed. It was amazing! After the hike down, we drove back to Quito to pack up our gear for climbing Cotopaxi tomorrow.