Hiking alone high in the Andean páramo amidst the knob and kettle formations of the Andes offers a unique sense of wildness. I don’t see footprints of domestic animals or the signs of the hand of man in many of the places I seek out. I always feel as if I could somehow time-warp into another era. Or, perhaps it’s simply the sense of timelessness that this windswept environment provides.
Crossing the top of a low ridge, I encounter another of the countless small bogs of the region. These are unique microcosms containing a rich history of the area and its environmental health. For example, the presence of certain insects only occurs if the water is free from the effects of grazing cattle, sheep or goats. Hearing of its potability, my experiences proved likewise. And, slaking your thirst directly from a pool definitely provides a connection with the environment.
The clouds are fluffy and the sky a soft blue in the west while in the east, darkening clouds have begun to knit themselves into more ominous formations. The beams of the late afternoon sun dance on the far ridges while two cuts in the range offer passageways to the north. That little sliver of blue sky on the horizon back is a very long ways off, probably well over a day’s hike.
It’s time to get out of here because the eastern wind is freshening, a sure sign atmospherics are about to make a quick change. If you live in Ecuador, you can understand what I mean. Besides picking up in velocity and gusts, the wind has become a colder and less friendly companion to my hike. Rain’s in my forecast as I set a compass heading and also confirm a reverse gps track.
Minutes later, a strong gust propels me across the grassland and towards a small gas stove, saucepan and a little ground coffee. They’re all waiting back at El Fantasma, my four wheel drive Toyota HiLux.