Words tragically fail me when it comes to describing breathtaking Lake Quilotoa and the windswept Ecuadorian Andes, 4000m above the sea. So instead, I leave you with our photographs, and a legend of the Quechua people:
“Some time ago, a young woman lived in the highlands near lake Quilotoa. One day while taking her sheep to pasture, she saw a tall and handsome man in the distance. He was wearing a colourful poncho and a white scarf.
The next day she saw the young man again. She smiled. He boldly approached and kissed her, taking off his poncho to reveal a huge pair of condor wings.
She screamed with great force, as the birdman took her in his claws. The two of them soared over the emerald crater lake Quilotoa, the peaks of Ilizinas, the Chimborazo, and the sacred volcanoes Cotopaxi and Tungurahua. Finally they landed softly in one of the quarries high up in the Andes. The birdman kissed the woman lovingly, and for each peck a feather sprouted on her body.
The villagers heard the woman’s cries and saw the condor taking flight. They scoured the mountain in search of the condor nest. It was there that they found the woman and without hesitation took her home.
That night the family locked the woman inside the house. All night and the next day she cried, refusing to eat or drink anything. She continued to weep for the next three days until she finally grew tired and decided to send the condor a message. She lit some straw on fire, sending a pillar of smoke into the sky.
The condor flapped his wings above the house and the two were once again reunited. In no time they were back in their quarry nest. Once again the villagers followed, reaching the nest breathless. They could not believe their eyes—the woman was nowhere to be found. Instead two majestic condors embraced.
To this day when a girl takes sheep to pasture parents warn: “Beware the condor!”
And if you missed them along the way, here is a collection of our travel stories from Ecuador.
(Quechua legend paraphrased by me; condor image courtesy of wikicommons)