Day 2: Birds-eye view of the Western Andes/experience 9 cloudforest waterfalls.The second day often begins with a fine horseback ride or walk, enjoying a series of wonderful views and landscapes. Our route takes us across streams of clear water, and through tranquil woodland. Bird lovers are likely to spot the toucan barbet, as well as tanagers, flycatchers, treecreepers, toucans, parrots, colourful woodpeckers (3 species) and hummingbirds.
We're fortunate to have been able to buy and conserve a 36 hectare (about 80 acre) area of pasture and rare upper montane woodland in 2013. Much of the pasture has now been re-forested with 4000 young trees. The woodland area runs uphill towards the vast Cotacachi Cayapas nature reserve (around 650,000 acres), and contains a series of attractive waterfalls (more than 9) in a secluded location. These are great for bathing (though cold!), and the luxuriant vegetation, which actually changes from cloudforest to the rarer upper montane forest in the course of the walk, is pretty impressive.
Lots of people prefer not to do the whole walk, which includes a fairly demanding ascent to the lip of the large nature reserve, with spectacular views onto the pristine jungle wilderness below. This is fine, as there are paths returning to the guesthouse along the way. Evidence of the activity of andean spectacled bears and of pumas is common, and for plant enthusiasts, there are dozens of different species of orchids, and many other flowering plants. We think that the rare Baudo guan lives in this unusual (and endangered) type of forest, though this has yet to be confirmed by a skilled ornithologist.
We usually take a picnic lunch into the reserve for this remarkable and unusual excursion.
Duration: First waterfall only: about 3 hours, circular walk.
To fifth waterfall: about 4 hours
To Twelfth waterfall, and then to the Reserve viewpoint: about 7 hours
Difficutly rating: To the first waterfall - moderate - there are some slippery stones, and fairly steep steps up.
To the fifth waterfall - also moderate, and a bit more taxing on stamina.
To the Reserve viewpoint - intermediate - quite a tiring day physically.
clothing/equipment - rubber boots (provided), light rain jacket, hat, camera. Snacks or packed lunch provided, depending on walk chosen.
Cost: For those staying at Finca San Antonio: $20 per group (to pay the guide), plus $5 per group as a contribution to maintaining the paths. To the first waterfall only: $10 per group.
For Day trips, not staying at the Finca: $25 per person, including lunch.