Leaving Cotacachi and traveling west towards Intag, through the village of Quiroga, you will find yourself on the edge of an ancient crater that contains a deep and mystical lake known as Laguna de Cuicocha. The lake affords the perfect combination of outer beauty and inner serenity that easily encourages hours of quiet contemplation and relaxation in an idyllic natural environment.
There are two restaurants near the lake, overnight accommodations and boat rides around the lake and its central islands. The owner of the small restaurant, "Ernesto's" and bungalow establishment at the top of the lake is a knowledgeable naturalist. He will escort you on a four-hour walk around the lake’s edge, pointing out the area’s healing plants along the way. It's also a great place to get a low priced trout dinner.
Once Gary and I were there when Gary had a bad head cold. Ernesto took him out to the driveway, picked the leaves of half a dozen different plants and told him how to use them to alleviate his cold. It worked!
Continuing past Laguna de Cuicocha you enter Intag, an area that covers approximately 2,200 square kilometers in northwestern portion of the Ecuadorian Andes. Roads are winding and rutted. Progress is slow. Intag is one of the most biologically diverse as well as one of the most threatened, regions on earth.
It is well known for strong community endeavors to resist the mining that is destroying the environment and the quality of life there.
Grassroots movements and international organizations in the area are creating alternative projects to replace destructive practices and help locals improve their health, standard of living and incomes. The region's coffee is some of the best coffee on the planet. You can buy it at selected shops in Cotacachi.
A former mayor, or alcalde, of the Canton of Cotacachi, Auki Tituana, has been very instrumental in introducing these alternative projects.
The people choose their own sustainable projects and have designated Intag an Ecological Country. Their collective vision may very well be the best model we presently have for living green.
After passing through the picturesque village of Santa Rosa, with its small, tile-roofed houses scattered along a winding river, the road reaches an apex and then drops down on the other side of the Andes. The countryside views are spectacular and ruggedly remote.
The romantic river, steep mountainsides and misty cloud forest canopyin the afternoon make me think I'll run into some castle keep or that a medieval knight in armour might lunge across my path at any moment. 40 kilometers from Cuicocha the road curves to the right around a cliff and winds in a sharp descent to a lower altitude. We come upon the subtropical village of Apeula.
A short distance past Apuela, the largest town in the area, you will find the thermal springs of Nangulvi with concrete pools of varying temperatures and a charming restaurant with great fish dinners, all situated right next to the raging river. This is the perfect spot to soak away your troubles and soak up a very special Ecuadorian experience.