The Laguna de Busa sounded like an interesting place, so, without knowing anything about it, we got an early bus to San Fernando, the town closest to the lake.
From the town we had to walk for about 20 mins to reach the lake. The first impression wasn’t a good one: machines were working on a huge parking space to accommodate more people at the Laguna de Busa and its shop. The noise was quite off-putting to begin with, then the lake was nothing special, rather small, with a walkway around it, which would take about 15 mins to finish. Not quite the hike we were hoping for.
Rising close to 1000 meters above the lake, which sits at about 2700 meters above sea level, lies the mountain “Cerro San Pablo”. At the lake shop, a completely useless map showed a couple of hiking trails up the mountain. We figured that, if there’s way up, we’ll find it, and set off up the mountain. The first bit was just hillside pasture, but after a while we got into some native vegetation and it got really interesting. For 20 minutes we’d walk through a patch of wild orchids, then we’d walk through a patch of scrub with an enormous variety of species, a little further up, some low trees would line the path. Every few hundred vertical meters, the vegetation changed quite dramatically, until we got close to the summit where it was just highland grass and the odd wild orchid. The climb wasn’t particularly hard, as at some point the path led onto a dirt road, which we had to follow for a while. The view from the summit was breathtaking, one could see the peaks of the “Cajas” to one side, and we were sure that if it weren’t for the clouds, we would’ve been able see the ocean to the other side.
Very pleased about this hike, which turned out to be really beautiful after a somewhat disappointing start, we thought it was going to be a very easy descent. We decided to take a different path back, just to avoid retracing our steps. After a while we lost the path, and went bushwhacking for a bit. We thought it’s downhill and we know where to go, so we don’t need to turn back in order to find a path. At the beginning it wasn’t a problem making our way through the scrub, but the lower we got, the thicker the vegetation got. At some point it was so thick and entangled with vines, that, if we weren’t going downhill, I think we wouldn’t have made any progress at all. Eventually we fought ourselves out of this jungle, back to the Laguna de Busa. We were absolutely knackered and the descent took us way longer than expected, so, once more we missed the last bus back. We went to the main road and stuck our thumbs out. Nothing happened for a long time. We were about to give up and pay for a taxi to take us back to Girón, when a ute stopped and gave us a lift to Girón. From there it wouldn’t be a problem catching a bus back.
On the way, the guy who gave us the lift asked us where we’d gone, to which we replied: “We climbed the mountain”. He said that one needs to be careful with that mountain, because it’s a magical place. He proceeded to tell us a story about a group of tourists who hiked up the Cerro San Pablo, and at some point started seeing exotic fruits growing on the shrubs some distance away. Whenever they tried to get closer to pick and eat some of the fruit, the fruit would appear further in the distance. Following what they saw, the tourists got hopelessly lost and had to be rescued by locals a couple of days later. I suppose the mountain spirits were kind to us.
Some time after the hike, I looked up some information about Laguna de Busa, and found out that it was a sacred place for both Cañari and later the Inca. The Cañari called the lake “Leoquina”, which means something like “Lake of the Snake”, and is one of the places were spirits reside. In this case the Feathered Snake, which is the creator of mankind. Nowadays, some people believe that there is a silver treasure at the bottom of the lake, and a couple of people are said to have drowned looking for it. It’s a very interesting place indeed!