Today's hike takes you from the saddle between the Imbabura Volcano and Cerro Cusin through open farmland and pasture to the community of Zuleta and Hacienda Zuleta.
After being dropped off by your driver on the outskirts of Paroquia Rural Angochagua, you'll follow a cobblestone road southwest toward Cerro Cusin, a hill formed by a collapsing volcano. On a clear day you'll be able to enjoy views of the striking snowcapped Cayambe Volcano in the distance to the southwest and Imbabura Volcano over your right shoulder, to the northeast. Along the way, you'll pass farmland planted with rotating crops of quinoa, barley, wheat and corn and open pasture with cattle grazing. Follow the road as it slowly turns to the south and then southwest and drops into the valley of Zuleta, past Haciendas and their lengthy stretches of old stucco walls and impressive gates, before reaching the town of Zuleta, your destination for the evening.
Today's walk offers insight into a sampling of the Highland's agrarian practices: take note of the steel pails of pure milk waiting to be picked up and taken to the processing center in Cochas. Many chocolate companies, like Republica De Cacao, purchase this local milk in making their milk chocolate and dark chocolate products! You'll pass smaller private homes, older, dilapidated estates and still-functioning haciendas with expansive farmland.
As you enter the town of Zuleta, you'll notice a few small embroidery shops; a skill passed on to the Zuleta people by the Plaza family, owners of Hacienda Zuleta.
You're at a high elevation in the Otavalo Valley and the Highlands, so it's important to wear plenty of sunscreen and to maintain proper hydration and nutrition for your day's hike so pack plenty of food, water and snacks. Weather can also change rapidly, so bring your rain jacket and pants.
Dogs are popular pets all over Ecuador. Some will approach you in a friendly manner, most will bark loudly as you pass by and others can be more aggressive. Carry a walking stick and be prepared to bend over and pretend to pick up rocks; this will often keep aggressive dogs at bay.
Today's walk is mainly on a rough cobblestone road. Take care, as the surface can be uneven.
The weather changes rapidly in the Andean Highlands so pack accordingly, with warm layers and rain gear. Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots are also strongly recommended, as the hiking surface varies greatly from smooth asphalt roads to rough cobblestone and dirt tracks to slippery single-track trails.
Don't forget your camera as there are plenty of opportunities on this hike for spectacular shots of the Otavalo Valley, Lago San Pablo and the Avenue of the Volcanoes.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Enjoy your stay at the unique Hacienda Zuleta, an estate dating from the 17th century with expansive grounds, plenty of hiking trails and activities, cozy rooms and beautiful views.
Run by the staff of Hacienda Zuleta, the foundation was started in 1995 to honor the legacy of the former Ecuadorian President Galo Plaza Lasso. The foundation provides funding for community projects that protect local traditions and the environment, such as the beautiful Zuleta Embroidery Project and the Condor Huasi facilities.
Food & Drink
While today's hike is short, there are no stops for water or food along the way, so make sure to pack snacks and water at Hacienda Cusin. You may request a packed lunch at Cusin if needed or plan on eating once you arrive at Hacienda Zuleta (lunch included).