High above the town of Otavalo is a series of three lakes formed inside the calderas of the now extinct volcanoes Mohanda and Fuya Fuya. The elevation is around 12,200 ft at the largest lake, Mohanda. This is a protected area with many diverse forms of Andean flora.
Our day started with a drive from Cotacachi to Otavalo and then getting sidetracked on a couple of streets before finally heading up the rough cobblestone road to the lakes. The first few kilometers were very rough as the road had recently been dug up to install a sewer main right down the middle. Once past that, the cobblestones smoothed out as much as they can, and the remaining 7-8 km was not too hard on our little car. The views along the way were nothing short of absolutely beautiful.
Once we reached the top, there were a few signs with trail maps displaying pertinent information about the area. The cobblestone road ended and became a dirt road. We parked the car, and started hiking up the dirt road, hoping to hike around the lake.
We met some tourists along the way – a couple of Americans – one from Alaska and the other from Missouri I think. They had a guide with them and we chatted a bit before heading on. The road climbed for a bit and then forked into two directions. We opted to go right, as it didn’t look to be too steep and the sign showed another lake around the bend. The altitude was definitely having its effect on us, as we were tiring very quickly on some of the short climbs we had already made. The road we followed took us around the mountain, away from the main lake to a much smaller one. The road was lined with trees, presumably to help hold the soil in place to keep it from being washed out. We were on quite a steep slope with the smaller lake far below us.
At this point it began to cloud over and there was a chilly breeze, so we started back around the mountain. Once back on the other side, the clouds disappeared and it warmed up considerably. We made it back to the car, unpacked our lunch and sat for a peaceful meal. We then attempted to find the path that went around the lake, as we wanted to hike over to a large stand of trees we could see. We couldn’t find it after tromping around a bit through bushes and across a creek, so headed back to the car for the drive back down the mountain.