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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Papallachta: Thermal Pools on the Rim of Ecuador's Highlands

One of our favorite places to visit when we lived in Ecuador was Papallacta. That could be translated "Potato Town" if you want to break down the Quichua language. Papallacta is only about one hour east of Quito, just across the eastern rim of the mountains defining the high valley that makes up the highlands of Ecuador. As you depart Quito you travel down into the Valle de los Chillos and then begin to climb up towards the mountain ridge that separates the highland valley from the slopes leading down to the high jungle where the Amazon Basin begins. The drive is great and you pass through an area where there are a few geocaches worth your time. As you pass through Cumbaya be sure to stop in and check out the caches along the railroad track that is now a bike trail. Check out the several caches along the trail, starting with El Chaquinan. Quebrada San Pedro (GC34OR4). Once you leave Cumbaya you will begin the climb up to the often cloud covered ridge where you begin your decent. Papallacta is just a short distance down the mountain.
by sarah.a.m-s
There are no caches currently at Papallacta but if you go through the little community where the thermal pools are, you can get permission from the security guard to open the gate and allow you to drive up into the national park above Papallacta. There is a cache there just before you get up to some beautiful trails and lakes. Be sure to visit Campsite (GC2CKNX). This is one of mine and it doesn't get too many visits. It's off the beaten path. It's in the midst of pure beauty worth your time. Only the serious hikers and cachers get up here. It's not that hard. I guess the allure of the hot pools at Papallacta captures the majority of the tourist. I made my campsite right beside where the cache is located. I remember a full moon at 1 a.m.
when I caught an moonlit view of volcano Antisana. What beauty to behold on that cold night high in the Andes!

If you can swing it, I suggest that you plan to spend the night in Papallacta. Stay at the thermal pools. They have a nice hotel. You'll have the option of staying in individual rooms or renting a cabin. There's a great restaurant there as well. The highlight is the thermal pools. There are numerous pools, some hot, some cold and some in between. Some pools are for two or three people, others are large pools big enough for swimming. There's
nothing like a soak in these pools while looking up at Antisana towering overhead. I particularly enjoyed the little hot water fall in one of the larger pools.

Be sure to stop on the way over or on the way back at the highest point on your trip. There's a
by Andrew Neild
small stone chapel of sorts dedicated to the Virgin. This place is more than not shrouded in clouds. I've hidden caches here before but they don't survive. Maybe you can place one that will last for years.

Ecuador is a beautiful place. I consider it my second home. I've not been back for almost a year and a half. I miss the country, the culture and the special people there. I hope you can visit this beautiful country and its gracious people!

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