I saw at first hand the damage deforestation can do – the dramatic difference between primary and secondary forest. The Friends of the Tulipe-Pachijal Cloud Forest Foundation (link) is working with the local people to minimize this type of environmental damage. It’s such a worthwhile project.
We crossed a small stream (you don’t have to get your feet wet!) and Marco then invited me into his area of cloud forest. It didn’t seem much of an invitation – just the opportunity to head into some dense bushes and tangled undergrowth… Once inside the private and protected area, however, the atmosphere changed and I felt privileged to be in such a rich, dense and close-knit world of pristine forest. Feeling like an intrepid explorer, I made close acquaintance with lianas and lichens. With ferns in my face and forest floor under my feet I followed Marco deeper into the undergrowth. I spotted an evil-looking black and yellow striped caterpillar (small) and a rather ungainly centipede (large). I heard the squawk of parakeets and the tumbling sound of Marco’s private waterfall. Twisting and turning to avoid trunks and roots, we made it to the hut that Marco intends to develop into a simple camping base. We munched our lunch and then headed back taking a slightly different route.
Once we’d changed out of our muddy boots and trousers, we headed for the small Tulipe museum. ‘Tulipe’ is an ancient quechua (native South American language) word meaning ‘water that descends from the ‘tolas’.’ ‘Tuli’ means ‘tola’ and ‘pi’ (or ‘pe’) means ‘water’.
My museum guide was a delightful young local woman who explained the pre-Incan Yumbo civilisation and showed me their artefacts. We then headed down a small zig-zagging path, bordered by some of the plants I’d just seen in the wild, and other exotic species, over the scenic River Tulipe towards the neatly-kept archaeological site that makes Tulipe so special. This link with an ancient culture, distinguished by its understanding of astronomy, geometry and architecture, is something most other cloud forest tours aren’t able to offer.
My guide explained the significance of the ‘piscinas’ (large stone basins for rituals, purification, initiation and observation of the heavens) and the ‘tolas’ (truncated pyramids for sacred and ceremonial use and for dwellings). I wandered among the flor de mayo and citrus trees, taking photos. A short walk down a side road took us to the largest ‘piscina’, where a (modern) complex cat’s cradle of string indicated how the Yumbo used geometrical devices to plot the movement of the stars and planets, especially at solstices and equinoxes.
Our journey back to Quito was spent reliving our adventure. I had a great sense of physical achievement after the 4 hour walk amongst the creepers and the climbers, and felt I knew a little more about the ancient and fascinating Yumbo culture, thanks to Marco.
I’d do it all again tomorrow! Tulipe is highly recommended if you like a little challenge and want to visit an off-the-beaten-track area just a stone’s throw from frenetic Quito – a gem yet to be discovered.
A.M. (aged 58), Brighton, England.