In late January for about 7 to 10 days the Guayacan trees bloom in southern Ecuador near the Peruvian border. The yellow blossoms create a visual spectacle enjoyed by everyone lucky enough to be in the area at the right time. After hearing about this beautiful phenomena and seeing photos of the gorgeous yellow trees, I put it on my itinerary. Little did I know the greatest joy of the trip would be the people I met, not seeing the yellow blooms!
At 5:00 a.m. we boarded a bus parked along one of Alamor’s cobbled streets. As we moved slowly along the landscape it was fun watching the sun rise over the extraordinary vistas! We stopped for breakfast (desayuno) in Mangahurco, the base for Guayacan followers. Mangahurco is a small, pretty Ecuadorian town. The square was bustling with people there to enjoy time with their friends and family while viewing the trees. There was music and street vendors were selling food, hats, clothes, and just about anything you might desire. A beautiful old Catholic church dominates the center of the square.
I was the only non-Ecuadorian in the crowd, and as we sat at outside tables enjoying the magnificent view with our coffee and breakfast I got to know some of the other people on the bus. Everyone in the jovial group gave me a warm, friendly welcome to Ecuador and made me feel like part of the family. They teased me about my pigeon Spanish and taught me a few expressions only the locals would know. After breakfast, we drove another 30 minutes or so on rough, dusty roads to see the trees. There were several hundred people walking around the area. Families were having their picture taken under the trees which is said to bring good fortune. There are 6 routes for viewing the Guayacanes:
- Cocodrilos (Crocodiles)
- Laguna Azul (Blue Lagoon)
- Quebrada a Cazaderos (Ravine to Cazaderos)
- Totoras (Totoras)
- Cueva de Lagarto (Cave Lizard)
- Bolaspamba (Bolaspamba)
Each route is for a particular type of visitor, cyclists to hikers who want a challenge to those who can’t or don’t want to walk too far. We took the moderate Quebrada a Cazaderos route and I soon realized most of the yellow blooms had already fallen from the branches and were lying in piles on the ground. Heavy rain and wind followed by hot sunny days had affected the delicate blossoms and brought an end to the most spectacular displays. We were a few days too late for the best viewing. I photographed some of the trees that were still blooming and enjoyed the company of the other people.
After walking around for several hours we returned to Mangahurco for lunch (almuerzo).The highlight of lunch was chivo – a delicacy everyone (except me) was anxiously anticipating. Chivo is llama stew cooked in a covered pot in an underground oven. It’s a favorite dish and everyone was very excited about eating it. Back at the restaurant, the cook uncovered the oven in front of everyone and revealed the fully cooked Chivo stew. It was hot and after lunch we were sleepy and spent lazy time laughing and chatting. During the drive back to Alamor we passed through a thunderstorm that cooled things down. It was a fantastic day! Tomorrow I’m headed to Mancora and la playa de Peru!