Cahuasqui: One of Ecuador’s best kept secrets
Roughly four hours north of Quito, in the depths of the Andes mountains, is this little nugget located, Cahuasqui. An area that is rarely visited by outsiders, an isolated gem, that we would like to keep like that, and therefore only call it what describes it best: Island in the sky.
Let’s go to Cahuasqui!
Our bags are packed, our dog Julio is full of anticipation for what’s about to happen. We start our trip in Ecuador’s capital Quito.
3 hours later, we pass through the last bigger town, Ibarra, before heading northwest, in the direction of the Sincholagua volcano.
Winding roads up and down through the mountains, little bridges passing over creeks and rivers. Picturesque villages with beautiful town squares in the middle are spotted along the way.
We pass over the last mountain, and suddenly a different world opens up. What we see is just heavenly: A plateau, maybe 1.5 by 3 kilometres (1 by 2 miles) wide, with a village and farms on top. And we see green, lots of it. Until the horizon! The plateau itself is wide open, with no clouds in the way on this beautiful morning.
To reach it, we drive through a valley over two tiny bridges and up the slopes to the tableland. Friendly people along the road greet us as we pass by and a handful of dogs stretch their heads in curiosity.
Our friend Nick, who lives here and invited us, greets us at the entrance of his farm.
He is the one who coined the phrase “Island in the sky” when his bus turned around a corner and he first laid eyes on the plateau that was about to become his future home.
Back in the day, he came here with the US Peace Corps. He fell in love with the area and the locals and decided to create something with his own hands.
He bought land on the edge of the plateau and hasn’t gotten tired of building on his property ever since.
Three cottages so far, all with an incredible love for detail are splattered on the farm.
His friends and neighbours helped a lot. Handmade, sundried adobe bricks were used for construction. Trees as pillars, and here and there stones from an old church are included. Cobbled paths lead to the cabins, all lined by fruit trees, bushes and flowers.
Hiking Day in Cahuasqui
We hike up and down the mountains, explore rivers, let our drone fly through canyons and gorges and upstream to magnificent waterfalls.
Always with excellent views of the countryside all along our paths.
We rarely meet people, only a handful of farmers every now and then, that escort their cattle or horses from the pastures.
These encounters are very informative since we are told quite often which path to take. Many are either overgrown by plants or impassable due to landslides.
But, for the worst case, our guide and Nick’s farm manager Klever, carries a machete to clear minor obstructions.
The weather during these 2 days is great! The sun and huge white clouds take turns to make it quite comfortable for us to hike up rather steep mountains.
Julio runs by far the most, further to explore and right back to check on us.
Our last day
On the last day, we visited a Granadilla farm, run by a friendly and very active older man, Carlos Gomez, and his sons.
They show us around the property, the granadillas being grown on steep hills. Similar to winegrowing, this way it receives a greater intensity of the sun’s rays.
The men also take us down to the river, from where we walk upstream to suddenly find gorgeous waterfalls. Their dogs also accompany us and often lead the way.
They enjoy it the most, jumping over rocks and racing through the creek like crazy.
It’s Julio’s first time in the countryside, and he couldn’t be happier!
Wet, dirty as can be, but with energy to die for!
The way back is quite challenging. Slippery rocks, razor-sharp reed grass we have to pass through and loose soil makes this little hike quite an adventure.
Back up at the farm, we harvest a big bag of Granadillas to take home, but not before tasting some of them.
Granadillas are great to make juice out of, for marmalades or just to break it open with your hands and suck the pulp out.
The juiciest fruits ever!
From now on, we will gladly pass on our knowledge about this area far from city life and offer it to travellers that are exactly looking for that:
A trip into Ecuador’s barely known corners, rural life and astonishing nature all around in Cahuasqui!
Are you ready to join us?