The bus from Quito passes Mitad del Mundo, the touristy spot where the equator is celebrated, and drops me off a few kilometres north of the equator. I start walking up the dead-end road, and a military bus driver is kind enough to offer me a ride to the end of the road. After signing into the Pululahua Geobotanic Reserve, I walk to an open structure on the edge: the Ventanillas viewpoint. The mountainous landscape around me opens up, and a few hundred metres below my feet, I see a flat plain surrounded by green mountains: the Pululahua caldera I have come for. One of only two inhabited calderas on the planet. Pululahua erupted some 2.500 years ago, the volcano is dormant, and farmers have realised the potential of this small piece of the Andes. I start walking down the stairs, which I quickly leave behind, and walk down the steep zig-zag path to the bottom of the caldera.
When the path flattens out, and widens into a dusty track, I walk northwest, make a turn, and watch the scenery around me. Rugged mountains on all sides: this flat stretch of agricultural land looks out of place in the high mountains. I continue walking, having a vague plan to do a long trek around the caldera mountains. But when I reach trailhead for the Cerro Pondoño, I decide to take that instead. The trail is easy to follow, and when I finally climb the boulders at the top, the views of the caldera are superb, especially when the sun pierces through holes in the clouds that sail through the Ecuadorian sky. I manage to find a rock that is sticking out, a perfect spot for a short break, and wait for the sun to reach the caldera below. I now have time to pay greater attention to the sandy tracks below, the scattered houses, the ruins, the rows of poplars, the farmlands in between.
It looks like the corn season has just ended: the plants are still standing, brown, and I see a farmer looking for corns to harvest, while cows do the same for their own consumption. There is a field with flowers, but they are also being picked. Otherwise, most of the farmlands are brownish. Still, this ground must be very fertile: farmers realised many centuries ago that the caldera was a perfect place for agriculture, and started to grow their crops. I walk down the steep trail back into the caldera, walk the straight roads, dodging two fierce dogs that jump at me from under a parked tractor. Then, it is time to climb the zig-zag trail again, some 300 metres up; the going is steep, making the ascent fast. When I reach the viewpoint again, a cold wind is blowing against my back, cooling off the sweat that I have produced. A last look into this unique caldera, and I walk back to the main road to catch a bus.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Pululahua (Ecuador). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Pululahua. Read more about this site.