Going Inside of a Volcano?!

Sounds crazy, right? Well the truth is that the volcano, while active, only releases small bubbles to the surface of the lake that covers the crater of the volcano. So even though I was “inside” of a volcano, it only felt like I was on the lake!

Traveling by boat over Lake Cuicocha. Surrounding us are the large volcanic walls of El Volcán Cotacachi.

Inside of el Volcán Cotacachi is Lake Cuicocha. Here are some interesting facts about the area:

  1. There are two small islands inside the crater.
  2. The exact depth of the lake is unknown because researchers have never reached the bottom.
  3. The lake was formed from rains and the melting of the snow on the volcano.
  4. There are no fish in the lake because of its toxicity. The ducks and herons that eat from the lake only eat the algae.
  5. Wild guinea pigs live on the small islands. They’re called cuy which inspired the named of the Lago Cuicocha.
  6. Other animals that live on the islands include: rabbits, armadillos, deer, and wolves (otherwise known as el zorro andino).
  7. There used to be a docile zoo bear roaming the area which was friendly even to tourists. It was hunted down one day when it swam off of the island and into private property.
  8. The islands are well-protected and uninhabited by humans after careless man-made fires caused one of the islands to burn. It lost a lot of its vegetation which is now endangered.
  9. Since humans are no longer allowed on the islands, there is an abandoned restaurant that sits on one of the island hillsides. It serves as a reminder of the horrific tragedy.
¡Ciao Cuicocha!
¡Ciao Cuicocha!

Despite it’s beauty, our group only spent a short part of the evening on the lake. Earlier that day, we traveled to San Antonio and Otavalo to explore different marketplaces.

In San Antonio, we visited the house of sculptors who have been creating wooden art for generations. They showed us the process of forming the sculpture out of wood, creating sharp details, using painted glass for eyes, and the painting processes that make the final product. I would have liked to buy one of the sculptures because they were amazingly beautiful! But, the pieces were pricey and I would have run out of my spending money for the whole trip… Maybe I’ll return one day when I’m out of college and I actually have money.

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Next, we visited the famous indigenous market in Otavalo. The colors and crafts were amazing, unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures since it was very crowded and my hands were full with my purchases. This was the first time I ever negotiated prices with a vendor, and it was a fulfilling experience.

Although I wanted to buy things for myself, I ended up spending all of the money I took with me on souvenirs for my friends and loved ones. I didn’t finish buying everyone a gift, so I would like to return with some friends one day to get everyone on my souvenir list a small gift.

Till next time, amigos!

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Brenda Mora

From Holland, MI. Mexican-American studying abroad in a Latin American country. Speaks Spanish/English fluently. Likes nature walks and laughing.

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