Otavalo is such a small town, that you can walk around it in just a few hours. But never mind there are so many things to do around, 1 day trips to nearby villages, lakes, volcanoes, activities like mountain biking, that you will not get bored even if you stay for 2 weeks.
We grabbed a map in a tourist info center at Plaza de Ponchos and decided to go for what should have been a few hours walk to El Lechero and Peguche Waterfall. A few hours walk if you don’t get lost though. And you know us…
There are two stories being told about El Lechero. The more common one is that the tree (El Lechero is a name of both the tree on the top of the hill and the viewpoint) is sacred and has some healing powers. The other one is not very known, but is much more romantic. Is says that there were two lovers from two enemy families, who tried to run away together. But they got caught and were cursed into a tree on a hill (El Lechero) and a lake (Lago San Pablo). Now they have to look at each other every day, but can’t get closer.
There should be a 4 km trail to El Lechero from Otavalo, which we haven’t found, so we went up a steep hill, all the way down to Lago San Pablo and up a steep hill again. It was very windy and it hadn’t rained for weeks, so sometimes we felt like being in the middle of a dust storm. Otherwise it was a very nice walk through a rural area and we met some nice and smiling people on the way. Majestic Imbabura Volcano was overlooking us all the time. We were looking forward to seeing the view over the lake with just a solitude tree on the hill and we were a little disappointed when we finally got there. Not only the view was disturbed by other trees, but we just did not feel any sacred spirit of the place. It still looks quite nice on the pictures, though.
Way from El Lechero to Peguche Waterfall looked also very easy on the map, but it would not be us if we didn’t get lost, right? An other disappointment awaited us when we finally got there.
Peguche Waterfall is a very important spiritual and ritual place to ingenious Otavalo people. They come a night before Inti Raymi celebrations to take holy bath here. Also Peguche Waterfall comes with a legend – it says that there is a golden bowl guarded by two black dogs inside the waterfall. Next to the bowl there is a devil holding plate with sand, which is little by little washed away by falling water. As soon as the plate is empty, the devil will take a soul of whoever comes to the waterfall.
But again, the only thing we saw was a 18 metres high waterfall with many local tourists around. Nothing spiritual around this nice and well cared of place.
The waterfall is just outside the town, to get to the center you must walk about 3 km, which gets quite boring after some time, as you are not in the nature anymore.
Would I recommend you to go to El Lechero and Peguche Waterfall? Yes, if you want to see nice views on the way and meet local people. But I would do it because of the journey and not expect much of the destinations.