After a relaxing breakfast where Betty made sure to serve my favorite tropical fruit juice - maracuya - Marcelo and I load into his van and head out. We pick up Jascivan, our outfitter for the trek, and a couple guys to help along the way. Once we get out of Quito, the concrete buildings quickly drop out of site, and the high paramo stretches into the horizon. I'm amazed at how wild and expansive the region is. We're heading East, towards the Amazon basin, but we're gaining altitude climbing high into the mountains. As we cross the tree line, the landscape gives way to cliffs and bluffs covered in thick grass, flowers and mosses. The area is wet too, and at one point I count 5 waterfalls from the road. Today, our goal is the village of Oyacachi. The village is adjacent to the Coca-Cayambe reserve, and Jascivan wants me to see the area to determine if we might be able to support a community tourism program there. As we cross the continental divide and wind our way down the east side of the Andes, the grasslands give way to lush cloudforest of twisted trees, lineas, and bromiliads. The village is set between steep valley walls and is as picturesque as any tropical mountain village you might imagine. We meet one of the local caciques, or leaders, and we spend a couple hours with him as he shows us a traditional home that has been rebuilt and talks about the customs of the village. CARE International developed some hotsprings some years ago, and I check these out too. In the evening, we have a trout dinner in a simple cafeteria run by a local family.
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