The lagunas de Mojanda is one of the hidden gems of the countryside of Otavalo, in the north of Ecuador. After 45min of slow drive on the old, bad, paved road (17km) that used to link Otavalo to Quito, you discover the impressive laguna, sitting in the crater of a dead volcano. It´s in this majestic landscape that we climbed our first summit, Mount Fuya-Fuya, at 4263m.
Be prepared for the cold – the equipment
The cab driver stares at me sitting in the cab, just wearing a tee-shirt “Muy frio a la cima” (It´s really cold at the top) “Tenemos 2 chaquetas” (We have 2 jackets) “Se necessita 4” (You need 4). He was quite right, as the temperature at the top was 4 degrees celsius! But in good Swedes, we were equipped with a good windproof jacket, a warm layer as well as thin silk gloves that made the jealousy of other trekkers we met along the way “You guys have gloves!“. Yes, and also a hat, remembering than a big portion of your warmth will disappear via uncovered head.
Hiking above 3000m of altitude – the sensations
When the cab drop us off, we can already feel a small headache due to the 1000m of elevation difference from Otavalo, nothing really bad, just a bit of discomfort. When starting our hike, we realize that walking on flat path is ok but as soon as we start climbing, our breath become short, forcing us to stop every second minute or so. (We will learn later on that a better technic is to climb really slowly, but continuously). As soon as we stop, heart beats slow down, we catch our breath and start climbing again.
Volcano, laguna, peaks and clouds – a fantasy landscape
A strong wind blows and we almost wonder if it´s not going to rain, or if on the contrary, it will sudddenly open to a clear, blue sky. The laguna is surrounded by dark grey clouds, making the former volcano´s peaks even more dramatic, and almost scary. This could almost be Mordor, from The Lord of the Rings. On the other side of the volcano, high grass and hilly plain could remind us of the Rohan. We feel like walking in a fantasy, and if we remain focus on the objective (the top of Fuya-Fuya), we can´t help stopping and looking back to admire these surrealistic surroundings.
To the top!
The last part to reach the top is the toughest. Thick clouds wrap the summit, tricking our minds and making us believe we are climbing on the edge of the mountain while the ascent is actually safe. Breath is even shorter, but you can feel the adrenaline bumping in your temples.
On the last effort to pull ourselves to the top, an enormous feeling of achievement “We made it! 4263m!” A guy from Imburra (nearby city) joins us a couple of minutes later, he shakes our hands. We are proud, we made it to the top! And who cares that the view was totally blocked, full of clouds, and that on a clear day you could see volcanos Cotopaxi and Chimborazo… we will see them later during our trip anyway! (*spoiler*)
Your accessible exploit 4263m in Ecuador
Due to its location on the Equator (or more exactly 0.13N) and the climate of the area, the summit is accessible via a simple path, accessible with hiking boots or good sneakers. You won´t have to walk on any snow, and the ascent is safe. You will enjoy the hike more if you have spent a couple of days in Otavalo or at a similar altitude and are a bit acclimatized.
You don´t need a guide or to go on an organized tour, but you can, if you prefer. It costs around 40USD and can be arranged from Otavalo.
How to get there: Take a cab from Otavalo to reach the lagunas de Mojanda (should cost 10-15 USD). You can negotiate with the driver so that he comes back to pick you up after your hike.
What to carry: Just a light day pack. Don´t forget: windproof jacket, warm sweater, thin gloves, hat, at least 1L of water per person, snacks and sun cream (the sun is strong, even through clouds).
Ready to climb summits: how about an active volcano?