Experiencing the different textures of the Andes in the Condor Trek
Have you watched the 2015 film The Revenant? Or any film depicting the early life of the first colonist settlers in the wild American continent? A lot of people felt drawn and nostalgic for that Lewis&Clark lifestyle after watching those films.
Fortunately, there are still some savage, windswept highlands where those people could travel back in time and space, to experience first-hand how raw life must have felt before overwhelming civilization took over.
Where are these places, you ask? Mostly, in the Ecuadorian Andes. Experienced mountain lovers along with innovative touristic operators have established trekking routes that cross glacial valleys, gigantic volcanos and dense forests, a combination not found elsewhere but in this part of the world.
Protocols and logistics are meticulously arranged by us so that the adventure feels as wild as possible, but safety and comfort are warranted.
The most famous of these routes is the 51km long Condor Trek, named after the giant, endangered Condor bird that makes its home in the area where the trekking takes place.
Its entire 4 days/3nights is made by heavy-duty hiking, but of course, explorers are aided by guides and packhorses who carry the equipment.
The itinerary starts at the Cayambe-Coca reserve, named after the snowy Cayambe volcano it contains, which thaw originates mighty rivers that bring life to the altitude high sierra and temperate cloud forest that are crossed during the journey.
The route continues south to the moraines of the Antisana volcano, where the group will trek over landforms composed of glacial till, ancient lava flows, and margins of glacial lakes.
Explorers should bear in mind that humans are only guests in these wild natural landscapes, as deer, wolves, rabbits, armadillos, pumas, and 418 species of birds claim this area as their own. Even looking down at the ground, a variety of very impressive coloured flowers salutes the eyes.
Reaching a maximum altitude of 4429 meters, the final day features a relatively easy walk over flat terrain leading to the Pita River, an affluent of the Cotopaxi volcano (earth’s highest active volcano). The entire area offers enlivening views that inspired famed XIX century American and European landscape painters. At this point, the expedition reaches the mountaineering refugee of Cotopaxi where its possible to warm up with a hot beverage, followed by a transfer back to Quito.
In conclusion, walking an average of six hours per day on primal landscapes, sleeping around a campfire under the stars, connecting with the spirit of the mountains and their mysterious nature, accompanied by expert guides and good foods… sounds pretty much life-changing!