Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Living in the Clouds

For the past few weeks, I've been living in the hills above Pesillo. It's a tiny farming community in the Northern Highlands of Ecuador, up at 3,000m and an hour and a half from the nearest town. Charged with looking after the herd of 14 horses and the resident border collie, there's been little time to explore any further than I can ride on horseback. Fortunately, I haven't felt much need to. The valleys are vast. You can ride for hours and still cover new ground. And their expansive beauty is breathtaking, no matter how many times you see it and no matter what the weather does.
Some days it's like living in a cloud - the air wet with tiny droplets of rain that shroud the valley in a misty haze. Waves of this feathery-light wisp will swirl through the hills all day, interspersed with fleeting glimpses of blue sky and bright sunshine - the translucent colours of rainbows arching over the valley are a regular sight. In the wetness of the clouds, it's easy to forget the hills are overlooked by the monstrous Volcán Cayambe. When it does appear, a brilliant ice white crag looming in the distance, it looks starkly out of place against the lush, rolling farmlands.
Though riding is undoubtedly the best way to enjoy the scenery, with most of the herd resting after a six-day tour, I've had no choice but to don my trainers and explore it on foot. Turning right out of la finca you can do a 5.5 mile loop of the valley. It's an undulating circuit that climbs over 700ft on a mixture of ankle-twisting cobbles and slippery, muddy tracks - and includes a constant assault by ferocious-sounding dogs that chase you past their property. It was an ambitious start for my first run at altitude and, needless to say, it took several attempts before I completed it without stopping. The locals undoubtedly think I'm completely bonkers - a red-faced "gringita" needlessly puffing her way up the cobbles in a laboured jog that's slower than walking pace. But, by and large, they seem to accept me. I get the odd smile and wave, or friendly honk from a passing truck.

On my most recent venture, la finca's elderly collie, Guapa, decided to join me. Ignoring my repeated instructions of "Quédate aquí " (Stay here), she snuck out of the gates after me, keeping a discrete distance behind. I didn't realise she was in tow until the battle cries of the first batch of guard dogs crescendoed to unprecedented levels. Terrified she'd be mauled by the neighbours or get lost, I spent most of the run glancing nervously over my shoulder and calling her on. But I needn't have worried. Despite remaining largely out of sight - about 70m behind me on a bendy track - she faithfully followed me the whole way. I stopped to wait for her on the home straight as she bowled towards me, ears flapping and tongue lolling as if smiling broadly. It's fair to say she finished much more strongly than I did.

Clearly, four legs are better than two. I should stick to the horses!


  1. Wow Lottie! Great reading your posts from a fairly urban flat!