Sacred Sites Quest: Ecuadorian High Andes and Cloud Forest
February 17-25, 2018
This amazing South American destination has been named one of the most diverse countries in the world. With snowcapped mountains, coastal beaches, the Amazon Jungle, cloud forests and the famous Galapagos Islands, you can truly see it all.
Come for a nine day adventure packed tour filled with stunning views, waterfalls, crater lakes, and the warm and welcoming Ecuadorian people. You will participate in a magical Shamanic Cleansing, experience first hand the working's of a coffee farm, and stand on the equator with one foot in each hemisphere. We will picnic on typical Indigenous grains in front of archeological ruins, soak in the thermal springs in Papallacta, visit the vibrant and famous weaver's market of Otavalo, and spend an afternoon viewing the culture and beauty of Historical Old Town Quito.
Life is about experiences----this is one you won't forget.
Day 1 Arrival
Day 2 Papallacta Hot Springs
Day 3 Otavalo: Ruins
Day 4 Lake Cuicocha, Cotocachi
Day 5: Peguche Falls, Otavalo Market
Day 6: Leave for Farm, Lunch at Crater
Day 7: Build Labyrinth, Pick some coffee! Roast your own, Shaman Cleansing
Day 8: Chocolate Factory, Butterflies, Waterfall hike.
Day 9 Quito Tour: Fly home at midnight
Day 1: Arrive in Ecuador! You will be picked up at the airport and transferred to a nearby hotel for a good nights sleep before the true adventure begins.
Day 2: After breakfast we will hit the road to Papallacta Hot Springs. This stunning drive crosses a 13,000 mountain pass with glimpses of Antisana's snow capped peaks and then descends into the small town of Papallacta. Here we will hike the Reserve, observing the flora and fauna, followed by a soak in the thermal springs while taking in the views of the surrounding mountains.
Day 3: Today we head north to Otavalo which sits at 8,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by the tall mountain peaks of Imbabura, Cotocachi and Mojanda, standing over 15,000 feet. On the way, we will stop at the equator sun dial that sits directly in front of Cayambe Mountain. The Quitsato Guides will give an excellent explanation of their project which encompasses astronomy, geodesy, archaeology and history as well as the social and cultural implications of the equator.
After the Equator Expo, we will head up to the paramo, a special region in the high Andes, to visit a Pre-Columbian archeological ruin called Pambamarca. At greater than 13,000 feet, you will have quite the view of the valleys, Cayambe Mountain and Quito off in the distance. We will observe Indigenous women of the area harvest honey from the Agave plant followed by a picnic lunch consisting of ancient grains eaten from a large leaf as we watch shepherds herding their flocks.
Day 4: Today, we will visit Otavalo, home to a large Indigenous population who carry on the weaving tradition and sell their wares at the town square. During the market's peak, almost one third of the town becomes full of stalls selling textiles, tagua nut jewelry, musical instruments, leather goods, indigenous costumes, hand-painted platters, purses, clothing, and spools of wool. In the afternoon you can hike to Peguche waterfalls next to the hotel or up the steps behind the hotel that lead to views of Imbabura and the neighboring village.
Day 5: We will visit the special Lake Cuicocha. Sitting at the foot of the Cotocachi Volcano, the azure waters of this 600 foot deep lake shine brightly with the twin volcanic cones at it's center. We will take a short hike for great views of the lake and a boat ride through the islands for an up close view of the surrounding cliff walls. On the way back to the hotel, we will stop in the town of Cotocachi where you can stroll down "leather street" to shop for hand made leather goods.
Day 6: In the morning we leave for the Cloud Forest. On the way, we will stop for a five-star lunch at El Crater Restaurant over-looking Pululahua Crater in an area called the Middle of the World. Pululahua Crater is one of only two inhabited volcanic calderas in the world and the only one cultivated by its inhabitants. The Crater is also one of the largest with it's lava dome rising 500 meters above the crater floor and it is covered in lush cloud forest vegetation.
Day 7: It's time to build a labyrinth! We begin construction of the labyrinth on Above the Clouds Farm owned by your host, Cheryl Reed. The construction will be next to the Guest House and will be enjoyed by future guests for years to come. After, you will tour the coffee production where you can pick the bright red cherries, process them in the despulpadora, and send them to dry in the green house. You will see how much work goes into that wonderful cup of java you love so much. You will enjoy a fresh cup of coffee while watching clouds being born in the valley below the guest house.
In the evening, we will experience a very special event-- an energy "cleansing" by a Tsachila Shaman and his family. The Shaman believes in the spiritual powers of his natural surroundings. He will "clean" both your body and spirit mixing the power of music, dance, medicinal plants, tobacco, and alcohol in order to invoke the spirits of the Pacha Mama or Mother Earth. You will leave this ceremony feeling a sense of renewal.
Day 8: Mindo is a village on the western slopes of the Andes Mountains of northern Ecuador. It's known for the many bird species, butterflies and orchids found in the surrounding cloud forest. We will tour a chocolate factory where you will see the cocoa plants and try a cocoa seed, followed by a sampling of the best brownies in the world. We will visit a butterfly sanctuary where you will see the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly and in the afternoon we will hike to a secluded waterfall.
Day 9: On our return to the capital city of Quito on Sunday afternoon, we will take a tour of the Historical "Old Town". The Historic Center of Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas. Quito was one of the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO in 1978 due to its treasures of colonial churches, paintings, sculptures, and carvings. One of the greatest highlights of Quito is EL Panecillo, a 41 meter tall aluminum monument of the Virgin Mary, erected in 1976. After dining in Old Town, we will head to the airport!
Your Hosts: Cheryl Reed and Jay Stailey
Cheryl has lived on her farm in the cloud forest of Ecuador for 15 years. She has tried it all, from dairy farming, to a tropical fruit plantation to now coffee and tourism. The journey started in 1997 when Cheryl took a volunteer trip to Ecuador. For two weeks, she worked in her profession as a Physical Therapist helping disabled children and she immediately fell in love with Ecuador's amazing beauty and joyful people. She eventually returned and purchased her farm in 2002. Five years ago, Cheryl began sharing Ecuador with others and has hosted eight retreats. She is currently fulfilling her dream of building a guest house on her farm which will allow people to immerse themselves in the daily Ecuadorian life.
As Jay Stailey prepared for his departure from a quarter century of work as a school administrator in Houston area public schools, he inadvertently stumbled upon the labyrinth at St. Thomas University. As his walks became regular events in his busy life, he discovered the power of the labyrinth as a tool to focus his thoughts, clear his mind, and tune his inner being. His curiosity and interest broadened as he became a Veriditas trained and certified labyrinth facilitator and eventually led him to become Houston’s first labyrinth coach. He has emerged as a fixture in the Houston labyrinth community, facilitating monthly labyrinth walks at the Historic Freedmen’s Town Labyrinth, guiding Houstonian’s on discovery walks and bicycle tours, and facilitating the construction of temporary and permanent labyrinths with Houston Area churches and schools abroad on the Fourviere in historic Lyon, France and on the equator in the cloud forests of Ecuador.
We will stay at two wonderful places in Otavalo. Two nights will be spent at the La Casa Sol Andean Lodge which is run by an Indigenous Cooperative. LA CASA SOL – OTAVALO was built on the side of a hill overlooking the Otavalo Valley. From the Lodge, you can walk to Peguche Waterfalls and climb the mural painted steps behind the property that lead to the adjacent village for a view of Imbabura Mountain.
Hacienda Cusin is a 16th Century renovated Hacienda. The word magical doesn't give it justice. With it's white-buttressed walls, Andean landscape views, cobblestone fountain-patios and terracotta roofs that overlook the often snowcapped, sacred Imbabura Mountain, it is something that can only be felt in person.
Subtropical Ecuador: Accommodations will depend on the group size. For eight people, we will stay at Cheryl's Guest House on Above the Clouds Farm. This five bedroom home has a 360 degree view of the coffee plantation, river valleys and mountains ranges including Pichincha and Cotocachi. For 9-15 guests, we will stay at Septimo Paraiso, a resort near Mindo that sits in the heart of the cloud forest.
Registration: February 17-25, 2018
$1899 pp Shared or Couples
Reserve your spot now!
Couples or Friends Deposit:
QUESTIONS?? FEEL FREE TO EMAIL CHERYL AT ABOVETHECLOUDSRETREATS@HOTMAIL.COM
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