Updated: Feb 22, 2020
It was Christmas, the weather was beautiful so we decided to take a trip with the dogs up Mojanda. Mojanda is one of the three mountains that dominate the landscape around our home. There is Cotacachi, seemingly just outside our backyard, Imbabura, towering outside our front door, and Mojanda to the south, just above the town of Otavalo. Unlike Imbabura and Cotacachi, Mojanda has a well-maintained cobblestone road to the summit, an easy day trip, so off we went!
We bundled our two pugs, Niele and Zoe into the car along with all the camera gear, lunch, layers of clothing and headed off. The drive was easy, although the recent rains had done some damage to the road so there were both pot and pit holes to maneuver along the way. But the vistas as you wind along this charming country road encourage you to slow down and take your time to enjoy the view. Take one turn and there is a panoramic view of fields and farms, then forests surround you filled with myriad shades of green. Both Cotacachi and Imbabura volcanoes would appear at different turns of the road, with the towns of Cotacachi and Otavalo respectively at their feet.
As we climbed, the small homes that lined the road dwindled, a few perched atop sheer hillsides with panoramic views that stretched for miles, tiny little homes with million-dollar views. There were small farms with fields planted on almost vertical slopes of valleys leading down to postcard picturesque streams. Then the top of Mojanda began to appear above us. The landscape began to change, more alpine with twisted tangles of small trees mixed in with tall grasses and shrubs. The verdant greens of forest became the earthy tones of brown and tan of the high grasslands. We looked out over a valley leading steeply down away from us. The hillsides were the mix of low scrub and grass while the valley floor was a checkerboard of fenced in pastures leading to an escarpment where clouds were forming in the updrafts below us.
We rounded a turn and found a rope across the road, then a young boy came out to explain there was a twenty five cent toll for us to pass. We had to admire his entrepreneurship and paid the “toll”, it was Christmas after all. But, the truck behind us wasn’t so easy a mark and the driver gave the boy a piece of his mind before begrudgingly paying the toll.
The winter storms had taken their toll on the upper part of the road. There were deep channels scoured out of the roadbed where the runoff had ripped out the cobbles and cut into the underlying soil. There were small sections of hillside that had slumped down across part of the road so our pace slowed further to avoid the damage.
Soon enough we crested the last hill and reached the caldera. While Cotacachi has a summit crater and Imbabura still has a lava dome, Mojanda has a crater lake formed when the summit had collapsed, blown up or a combination of the two. In any event, the scene was majestic. We had entered via the lowest point on the rim of the caldera and were surrounded by steep hillsides and lava cliffs all around us. The lake filled our view, easily a kilometer across if not more. We had arrived around midday and the clouds had begun to form and descend across the lake, blown by a chilling wind. The scenery changed quickly and constantly, from sunny and warm to cloudy and cold, giving us all the different moods of Mojanda in the short time we explored around the lake.
Our pugs of course were having a blast. Niele loves to explore and was running all about, but soon found how cold the water was at lakes edge. He limited his customary splashing and playing in the water accordingly. Zoe? Well, she found a small bird hoping along the ground and proceeded to give chase, until the bird finally flying away and Zoe looking at us with what can only be described as a mischievous smile. Then a little bit of excitement when Niele finds a bird carcass and wants to eat it. Lynn gets after him to drop it and finally has to force him to finally drop his prize.
As we continued on, there were a couple of small pools to cross to continue on the trail. The first had a stony path to traverse the pond. Lynn and I crossed on the stones with little difficulty followed by Niele, using some of the stones but also playfully splashing in the water. Zoe doesn’t like getting wet and paced back and forth, whining then finally resigning herself and running across the stones with minimal splashing. A young Ecuadorian couple had come along by this time and took great delight in Zoe’s antics, the young lady cooing at Zoe in an effort to soothe her and make friends. Niele of course was the social animal and came right up for his usual attention and pets, what a ham! The second crossing was a deep channel that required a long hop to get across. I crossed first, then Lynn handed me Niele and she crossed. I took off my backpack and jumped back across, scooped up the ever-dainty Zoe and returned.
We continued along the shore for a distance, enjoying the scenery and our dogs exploring all the sights and smells of a new place to play. But the clouds were beginning to get thicker, the wind colder and we could tell the afternoon weather was moving in. We made our crossings back in thickening fog and got a brief glimpse of the magnificent Mojanda landscape one more time before bundling back into our car and the journey homeward to a warm home and Christmas dinner.
Mojanda is just one of the many sites to see and explore around Cotacachi in the Ecuadorian Andes. If you love to explore, experience new places, culture and adventure, then this is a place for you! We have links in the article and below to help you get started. It doesn't cost you more, but we get a small percentage that helps us continue to share our adventures with you. If you are excited about these experiences as we are, click below to get started, Aloha!