La Loma Kids Win a Trip to Cuicocha

As part of the Government of the Parish of Cuellaje’s efforts to clean up and green-up this beautiful part of the world, for the past several weeks they have been running a competition between the schools in the Parish to see who could collect the most plastic bottles.

Last week the results came in and one of the schools that collected the most bottles was San Ignacio Burbano Primary School of La Loma, the community in which we live.

 

Bravo La Loma!

The prize was an all-expenses paid day trip to Laguna Cuicocha in the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve.

La Loma is one of the poorer communities of the Parish and so it was great to see the kids get to experience one of the natural wonders that is in their own backyard. As soon as we stepped off the bus a chorus of ‘wooooooow’s and ‘oooooh’s filled the air, and their faces literally lit up with excitement. Unfortunately our views were obstructed by the clouds that quickly started enveloping the lake and its surrounding mountains.

At just over 3,000 metres above sea level, Laguna Cuicocha is a 3.2km wide natural high-altitude lake situated in the crater of the still active Cuicocha volcano. The lake is the start of the nationally protected Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve in the Imbabura Province, one of Ecuador’s 46 protected areas.

The 243,638 hectare reserve encompasses many natural riches over three provinces, including the Cotacachi volcano, Laguna de Pina and an abundance of wildlife and plant species. Next to the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon, it is one of Ecuador’s most visited eco-tourism attractions.

We took a walk around the massive lake with one of the environmental officers from Cuellaje, employed by the reserve, as he explained some of the native plants and animals found in the reserve. He dedicated a good half an hour to environmental education, teaching the kids about Cuicocha’s biodiversity and the importance of not littering in the natural environment.

Continuing on to the interpretation centre, the kids (and us!) learnt more about the topography of the region and how volcanos form. Then we made our way down to the lakeside and took a boat ride out onto the lake. For almost all of these children it was their first time on a boat, and seeing something as simple as a duck on water made them jump out of their pants.

As we cruised around the lake, we were reminded of our position in Cuicochas crater, seeing bubbles form and surface in the waters down below.

The day ended with lunch in nearby Cotacachi. While we were exhausted from the early start and the day’s activities, the kids were full of adrenalin and showed no signs of calming down as the bus winded its way back home.

But they deserved their daytrip! The plastic bottles will be used to build a new library at one of the schools, as a pilot for their reuse and recycle program. The building will be tested and monitored and if deemed successful will be the prototype for other new buildings in the Parish.

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  • Natasha Malinda from Melbourne, Australia
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