Intag, the paradise close to my heart.

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I have always dreamed about hidden, mystical places, about beautiful deserted landscapes where I can feel at peace with myself. You got it, I have a difficult time feeling at peace with myself.You know,too many cars, too many people, too many thoughts, too much noise and all that stuff. I was desperately looking for an escape this weekend, dreaming of off and away, dying of being inside the nature. My spirit was calling me.I wanted some time alone with my thoughts, to watch the world turn and jot down my thoughts around a campfire. Instead of clearing my head, I ended up filling it. Filling it with beautiful memories of beautiful people and nature, and a reinvigorated appreciation for the world I am part of.

I suddenly remembered hearing one guy talking to someone in a coffee place about a place called Intag, which he described as “spectacular”. I turned on my research superpowers in trying to find out more about this place. 5 minutes later, I had my room booked at a hotel named Pacheco Farmhouse. I suddenly packed my stuff, having in mind the essentials: my repellent, sunglasses, raincoat, camera and I was ready to go! I jumped on a bus from Cotacachi to Otavalo ( 30’ drive, 0.35$)  where I got off and bought my ticket for the next bus ride – Otavalo to Intag. I literally had no idea how to get to the hotel I just booked but what I can say after this experience is that you got to follow your gut, that’s the best Gps that you can have. I have decided to get off at a place called “Las Piscinas de Nangulvi”, the place for which Intag is basically known for. I haven’t mentioned the magnificent bus ride from Otavalo to Intag. The journey takes around 2 hours and it costs 2,75$.

It is a marvellous scenery where you are travelling above to clouds literally. The landscape is very dramatic, especially after passing the Lagoon of Cuicocha. It’s quite an adventurous journey and I have to say I was a bit scared at times because the curves were really tight and the altitude quite high and you probably know that the bus drivers are not very reliable in Ecuador so it’s better to be careful on this aspect if possible.

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The driver shouts in the bus that we have reached Las Piscinas so I quickly get my stuff and get off the bus. I am standing in front of such beautiful place that I cannot believe. Everywhere you look there’s mountains, volcanoes, sculpted in between beautiful valleys. There’s an incredible vegetation everywhere you look, from colourful bushes to banana trees ( yes banana trees at this high altitude..) and if you’re really quiet and lucky enough you might see really beautiful coloured parrots making their way through the sky.

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Having witnessed the incredible beauty that surrounds me everywhere, I put myself together and go check out the pools. Deep down I was hoping that this place would be empty as I really needed some time with myself. At the entrance there’s a nice Ecuadorian man standing who’s in charge of the whole place. Smiling he tells me ‘young lady there’s no one here, you’re really lucky’. I pay the entrance (3$ for the whole day), I smile back at him and I eagerly enter the place. The place is just phenomenal. It is a sort of complex, with 4 swimming pools of different sizes, showers, changing rooms and a sort of mini bar where you can get ice cream and beer. Yes, ice cream and beer, the perfect combination, that’s what I thought too. I put on my swimming suit and here I am, ready to jump in the pool! I’m joking, you’re not allowed to jump in the pools. The pools take their waters directly from the volcano. The 4 different pools have different water temperature, from sort of coldish to really hot one.

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I allowed myself a good swim first into the biggest pool which is the coldest one too, and then relaxed into the smallest and hottest one. Right when I was exchanging the pools I thought oh gosh, if there would be sun as well this would officially be one the best days of my life. 5 minutes later, I’m standing in this very hot water, having the time of my life, with a bright and beautiful sun shinning right onto me! I think I must have stayed in the pools for almost 2h even though you’re advised not to stay more than 45 minutes as the water is really hot. But you know, time is relative so to me it didn’t feel like more than 5 minutes. When we really enjoy something we feel ourselves being caught in something I’d call a timeless ball. I started to realise I must have spent too much time in there right as I started to feel a sensation of burning of my skin. The sun was shinning really strong and as I checked my skin I realised it has already turned red. Time to get out of here I told to myself. Right next to the swimming pools complex, there is a restaurant. Being super hungry I decide to go there and ask for some food. They didn’t serve any food at that time as it was quite early for lunch, but they served me a delicious blackberry juice and one of the most amazing views a restaurant can have. 4 tables outside right in front of the Intag river which is a fast running powerful river which makes its way through the boulders and rocks fallen on the ground.

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On the right side of the restaurant there’s a small bridge connecting the other side of the shore which leads to beautiful forests and mountainous side roads.

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I found myself being alone again just as I asked for, witnessing this absolutely magnificent and peaceful scenery thinking that I am really blessed and honestly, I could not have asked for more. Everything was perfect. But as perfection doesn’t last too much, I decide that it would be a good idea to go and find my hotel as I had no idea how to get there. There is no reception in the whole area so don’t even bother taking your phone..I asked a local woman if she knows how I could get to Pacheco Farmhouse and luckily for me, she knew. And the best thing is that it was so close to the pools,only 3km away, amazing! There are no local buses in the area so just try no to rely on any means of transportation like that.. There are only 3 buses a day and there’s not really a fixed schedule so just have in mind that when you are planning your trip to Intag. I have always said, it’s either walking or hitchhiking. You can’t really go wrong with that unless you’re really unlucky. From the pools to Pacheco it must have taken me not more than 30 minutes of walking and it was such beautiful walk, I felt as if I was in the right place at the right time. I let myself be carried away by that marvellous scenery and the next moment I remember is standing in front of Pacheco Farmhouse.

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A very cosy white wood lodge overlooking el Rio Intag, surrounded by loads of beautiful trees, flowers and bushes. I was really hooked on the place but when I entered the lodge I felt I was in heaven.

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A beautiful welcoming hallway connecting the entrance to the living room. The living room connecting the kitchen and office is a large open space  with wide open windows overlooking the river. Everything inside is made of such good taste that it’s hard to describe. Almost everything is painted in white with subtle decorations and paintings from different places around the globe. This place makes me think about Italy, France, Sri Lanka and Scandinavian countries all in the same time. It has a bit of each of these places and all of them are quite special to me. Honestly I am blown away by the beauty of this place and I am so happy I have made my decision to come. My contemplation is being suddenly interrupted by a beautiful woman who comes to welcome me. Her name is Jimena and she is from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

thumb_dsc06739_1024She has an amazing vibe and we immediately start speaking as good friends who have not seen each other for a while do. She offers me something to drink and that’s when the good stories start to be told. Jimena has travelled the world and has lived in a lot of countries, we even found a common city we both lived in: London. Obviously her English is perfect, so if you are missing having a good conversation with someone in English then thumbs up, you got to the right place. She tells me how she moved to Ecuador some time ago and has bought this property when she first saw this place and fell in love with it. She tells me “well, when I bought this place I haven’t really thought that it would become like this. It was a really old house with a lot of not very welcoming stuff. I showed the pictures of the place to my brother who is an interior designer and when I told him about my ideas he told me I am crazy.” She basically turned metal into gold. Just like alchemists do. It was a lot of hard work which demanded effort and sacrifices and when I look at her I see the passion she has inside her. I find out that they have opened their doors to the public 5 months ago and ever since then the place has been packed with tourists coming from all over the world. They have 7 double rooms equipped with king size beds and everything you need, and you can book them with only 20$ a night/room, including breakfast. Also there are several cabins which you can rent for you and your family.

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There are few hammocks hanging on the trees where you can relax enjoying the beautiful nature. Another thing worth mentioning is the food which is absolutely delicious. Where should I start from? Everything is home made. Yes, everything. From peanut butter and marmalade to bread and home grown vegetables. Honestly I had the best food I had since I have moved to Ecuador, and that’s already 3 months. There is a diverse menu from which you can choose your food. They also have beers and wines and the prices are ridiculously low compared to the quality of the food and service.

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I started my next day by having a delicious breakfast and sharing stories with Jimena, which is an excellent host. After the breakfast I decide to go for a hike and explore the area more. Initially I plan on going up the mountain to a village called Penaherrera. First I walked onto the main road for about 30’ and right where I crossed the first bridge on the way to Apuela I turned left on a mountainous side road leading to the village.

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Penaherrera is 4 km up from this point. The scenery is just incredible and the best of all this is that there are absolutely no tourists or at least there weren’t when I was there, and that made that place and my journey a lot more special.

thumb_dsc06671_1024After 1h of hard walking in the absolutely scorching sun I sadly decide that I don’t have enough time to make it to the top and back, therefore I decide to take a different way. I make a 360 degree turn and after I reach the bridge again I choose the road going to Apuela which is the “main” village in the area. It must have taken me another 1h of again hard walking in the burning sun until I reached Apuela. Apuela is a tiny mountainous village with probably not more than 500 inhabitants. I had a very beautiful walk around it and met very nice people who smiled and talked to me.

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thumb_dsc06692_1024Unfortunately my clock was ticking again too fast and I had to go back to my hotel in order to catch the bus back to Cotacachi.

There is so much to be told about this place that it cannot be summarised in an article. I invite you to go and explore this area as it is absolutely fantastic. If you are looking for a place away from cities and crowds, a place where you can listen to your voice again, then this place is the answer.

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Useful links:

https://www.facebook.com/PachecoIntagValley/?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/Termas-Nangulvi-En-el-Valle-Sagrado-Intag-226975534096001/

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