Tale of two lovers: a tree and a lake

Ecuador travelogue: Chapter 6 | Read other chaptersSee photo gallery

After visiting the Equator at the new Mitad del Mundo monument near Cayambe, I reached the indigenous town of Otavalo, roughly three hours from Quito and checked into La Posada del Quinde, a beautiful hotel at the edge of Otavalo. The map provided by the hotel described two places that sounded very interesting and I set about to check them out – El Lechero and Laguna San Pablo.

The legend of El Lechero

According to a local legend, El Lechero (a tree on top of a hill) and Lake San Pablo are the souls of two lovers from rival families (an excellent plot for Bollywood movies). Unable to get their families to reconcile, they decided to escape to be with each other. Unfortunately the lovers were caught in their attempt and cursed into a tree (Lechero) and a lake (San Pablo). According to another story, El Lechero is a magical tree with healing powers.

↑ El Lechero, a single tree on top of a hill, a lover watching his love laguna San Pablo at the base of the hill. Click to make the pictures larger.

Regardless of which story you believe, the trek from Otavalo to El Lechero and onwards to the lake is very beautiful. I met extremely friendly villagers along the path that went over a number of hills and farm lands under the watchful eyes of volcano Imbabura. The route took me about three hours in total. Budget sufficient time for taking pictures at the top of the mountain and sitting on the edge of the lake throwing stones in it.

La Posada del Quinde, house of the hummingbird.

Few days before arriving in Otavalo, I contacted Maggie Reniers, the owner of La Posada del Quinde (previously called Ali Shungu) to arrange accommodation. I stayed here for two nights and absolutely enjoyed it.

Food and Accommodation:
My room was clean and cozy, and it faced a garden that had a large variety of flowers and atleast four species of hummingbirds. Having spent a full day travelling, I was exhausted and fell asleep rightaway, only to wake up to a pleasant sound of chirping birds in the morning.

↑ Cosy room that opens to a beautiful view of the garden.

The hotel’s website talks about a “hearty” breakfast that is included with your accommodation. Having stayed at a number of places that oversell their breakfast menu, I am always skeptical when hotels use adjectives like that. I was in for a pleasant surprise; the Pachamama breakfast served at this place was elaborate, fresh and definitely did justice to the word “hearty.” Dinner, accompanied by a band of live Andean musicians, was a creative dish made from organically grown ingredients and was very delicious too. I liked this pleasant break from the relentless carnivore meals I was having for past few days.


↑ Green pepper stuffed with lentils and tomato-cheese dressing, beans, cabbage and potatoes. Tree tomato juice.

Services and Access:
The common area has soft couches, reading material and a fireplace; an ideal place to meet fellow travellers or just curl up with a book and a mug of tea. There is wireless internet everywhere and a computer in the public area. Ask the front desk for a map of Otavalo – it has lot of information about interesting sights in the region. You can also store your luggage for free, and refill your water bottles, little things that go a long way in making one’s trip enjoyable.

The hotel is located at the north-western edge of the town and very close to the Pan American highway. The weekly animal market is only a five minute walk away, and so is the crafts market.

Links: Website | Facebook

I’d certainly recommend staying here; the staff is friendly, the atmosphere is relaxed and the location is great. But if you are not staying, atleast stop by to savour some delicious food in cafe Pachamama.

Note: While my stay was provided by the hostel, I was completely free to write about my experiences (good or bad). I would never write about something that I didn’t believe in.