the Cayambe-Coca Reserve - Ecuador Destinations
inhabited for more than 500 years, well before the establishment of the
Cayambe-Coca Reserve in which it is now situated. The
population of around 130 families is mostly descended from just 2
kichwa families who orginally settled near the hot springs in the area
and they maintain a traditional way of life in this tough but beautiful
landscape at an altitude of 3200m above sea level. Oyacachi
is starting to develop a small tourism industry, but is still well off
the beaten track and well worth the effort for those with enough
Spanish language skills and determination to get here. (If
don't have enough time to visit Oyacachi, you can enjoy the hot
springs in Papallacta on an easy
day trip from Quito instead).
carving is a skill
passed down through families in Oyacachi and carved wooden products
such as traditional "batea" trays have been traded or bartered for
necessities from outside the village for many generations.
The village woodcarvers have joined together in an
association to jointly sell their work through the cooperative shop
which is easily spotted thanks to the carved tree-trunk, totem-like
sculptures outside. In addition to functional items such as
bateas, wooden spoons and bowls, some carvers also produce sculptures
and ornamental carvings with a modern twist, though many incorporate
traditional motifs such as owls, bears or hummingbirds. Some
the craftsmen decorate their wooden goods with pyrography, designs
burnt into the wood.
pools (fuentes termales) are a real treat. Fed from natural
hot springs, the
warm sulphurous water is piped into a series of attractive open air
pools with views of the forested mountains. Entry is $2 and
there are changing rooms. During the day during the week you
may well have the pools to yourself. Locals bathe here in the
late afternoon (virtually no-one in the village has hot water in their
homes), and at weekends the pools can be crowded with day-trippers from
is no hotel in Oyacachi, but the tourist office (near the path leading
to the hot springs) will help you find a homestay with a local family,
which will probably cost around $7 or $8. Alternatively, you
can camp near the hot springs - arrange this with the tourist office
and expect to pay around $5 or 6. There are several places to
eat lunch and dinner at weekends for around $3, but on weekdays you
need to give them
a couple of hours' warning to cook for you - again, the
tourist office can help you arrange this. Trout is a local
speciality. There are a few small cheese factories in
Oyacachi that you can visit.
has no banking facilities, so take sufficient money for your stay,
remembering that you may wish to buy some woodcarvings as souvenirs.
If you miss or choose not to take the 4am bus, you
might need $20 or $30 for a camioneta back to the main road.
Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve sprawls across 4 provinces: Pichincha,
Imbabura, Sucumbíos and Napo (where Oyacachi is found).
The highest point, 5790m above sea level at the top of
snow-topped Volcán Cayambe, is almost on the equator and
are proud to point out that both the latitude and the temperature here
are zero. The Reserve includes a range of habitats down to
600m above sea level on the edge of the Oriente. The
Reserve offers some great hiking, for example the Oyacachi
- El Chaco trail, a 2 or 3 day walk down to the Oriente. You
will need a tent and a guide - ask at the tourist office in Oyacachi to
arrange a guide. Bird life is abundant in the area and
wildlife also includes the spectacled
puma, agoutis and otters.
If you don't have the time or fitness to walk all
to the oriente, there are some ruins of the earlier settlement to see
just a short walk from Oyacachi - the tourist office can provide trail
Getting to Oyacachi:
Getting to Oyacachi is easier than leaving....
Buses leave Cayambe
3.30pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for
the $1.50, two-hour journey to Oyacachi, also at 2.30pm on a
Saturday and 8am and 4pm on Sundays. The bus stop in Cayambe
on Junin street, between the Banco del Pacifico and the Banco
ProCredit, roughly behind the Akí supermarket. The
to return to Cayambe at 4a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
and Sunday, with an extra bus at 2p.m. on Sundays, though this is often
full of day-trippers. Buy tickets in advance to ensure a
seat, ask at the tourist office in Oyacachi for helping in
finding the unsignposted
community bank from where the tickets are sold. (Information correct as
at December 2009).
Spanish Vocabulary for an excursion to Oyacachi, Ecuador:
Artesanías de madera: wooden handicrafts
Trucha: trout - the local speciality
Destinations: Oyacachi and the Cayambe-Coca Reserve
Tourist information for a visit to the isolated village of Oyacachi and
the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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