Home > Ecuador > Ecuador’s northern valleys: From the Valley of Sunrise to the Valley of the Roses

Ecuador’s northern valleys: From the Valley of Sunrise to the Valley of the Roses

A typical day of May in the northern Andes of Ecuador had had its share of early morning fog, cloudy skies, clearing towards midday to allow the sight of magnificent mountains and terraced fields, patched with all tones of greens and golden patches of wheat and maize.  As we were having lunch, short breaks of drizzle and clouds wrapping the summits of the mighty volcanoes around us gave us a changing, yet always beautiful, scenario to enjoy delicious “morocho” empanadas, fresh trout from the neighboring lagoons and the typical fresh fruit sherbets, locally known as “helados de paila”, a non creamy local variety of non-conventional ice cream, made from pure juices of exotic local fruits, baked on bronze bowl-pans and served on crushed ice. A beautiful rainbow appears now over the southern shores of superb Lake San Pablo….

Gloria, Ivette, Jeanie, Mayita and Patty are five charming Mexican ladies on their senior years and top notch travelers…. They rave about the local culture, the sights and scenes of the Ecuadorian Andes and the delicious gastronomy… I enjoy, as much as they do, the overall experience as we sip coffee right by a large picture window separating us from the lake’s waters…. The food makes a perfect complement to this combination of nature and culture, displaying their very best in rainbows of color, light and flavors….

We have just left Otavalo, the Valley of Sunrise, where the industrious and intelligent Otaveleños have lived for centuries… Their life is wrapped between the spectacular scenery of the “Taita” (Father) and “Mama” (Mother) Imbabura and Cotacachi Volcanoes, respectively, and the long and fertile valley where, according to their ancestors, the Sun rises day after day, over the centuries… The place has a mystical symbolism for these gracious and proud people.  Their artistic skills are shown on their colorful and superbly designed woven articles: ponchos, shawls, wraps, scarves, tapestries, wall hangings and a myriad of other garments.  The Sacred Cascade of Peguche; the serene and majestic beauty of Lake San Pablo, the terraced fields along the hills and the imposing mountains frame the Valley of Sunrise….. Color and beauty are not quite sufficient to describe the place….

We are headed south, towards Quito, and while Ernesto drives our van, the Mexican ladies and myself continue to admire the constantly changing scenery and beauty of the Northern Andes.  We leave momentarily the Pan American Highway and turn slightly west-south west, passing by the picturesque town of Tabacundo.  To our left opens the huge and remarkably green Valley of Cayambe, called after the namesake volcano.  This valley, instead, is the Valley of the Roses…. For miles and miles we can see the green houses, some enormous, others smaller, hosting one of Ecuador’s newest and most promising commercial activities: growing and exporting flowers. Presently, the country is recognized as one of the world’s premier producer and exporter of flowers and its roses are considered among the very best (if not THE best) in the world.  The rich soils, the stable climate and a culture of care and professionalism have made this activity a source of employment and income for thousands of Ecuadorians.  Earlier in the day we had seen, precisely at the city of Cayambe, samples of flower bunches, with magnificent roses of the most peculiar and strikingly beautiful colors: dark reds, some almost black; oranges, purples and blues, pale rose or whites, just an explosion of beauty.  Carnations, astromeliads and other exotic flowers are also cultivated here…. A moment of silence, while we were all just quietly enjoying the scenic beauty, is followed by Gloria, suddenly shouting… stop… stop… Look on the left…. And yes, there it was, in all its splendor, Mount Cayambe, almost 19.000 feet of elevation, standing at one edge of the Valley of Roses, like a colossal and gigantic ice cream made of sheer rock, sparkling white glaciers and pink-rosy toned snows, shining with the late afternoon light, the sun rays crossing paths with a new rainbow… a glorious view….. The next minutes were a non-stop thrill as we negotiated the winding road, watching in awe, the changing colors of the sky, Cayambe’s snows and the valleys to our left…. In a matter of few hours we had driven from the Valley of Sunrise to the Valley of Sunset…. well, of Roses too… Just one more afternoon in the magical realm of Ecuador’s mega diverse beauty…..

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