Saturday, October 6, 2012

Upward over the Páramo

"It's a dangerous business,  going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

In my last post, I left off at the end of our trip to the Andean forest. Our day was not finished though: we were on a mission to reach the upper limits of the Andean range ecosystems: The Páramo. As you go up in elevation, the conditions on the mountains gradually become colder and more extreme. Around 3500m (11,500 feet), the tree line occurs - this is where the Andean forest ends and the Páramo begins. And when the Páramo begins, it's a whole new world (no magic carpets were involved though, just a magic school bus).

Everywhere I go (even into mountains), there seem to be paparazzi.
All of a sudden, there are no more trees (tree line - who would have thought?), and all you see is a vast expanse of grasses, and shrubs - a far cry from the elfin forest that was found just a few hundred feet below. The lack of tree cover means it can get very windy, and the lack of big biomasses means temperature is pretty unstable. They say Páramo is summer during the day, and winter at night. But if it's a cloudy day, like when we were there, it's definitely still chilly. Good thing I brought my sweet, sweet alpaca hat I bought at Otavalo, an indigenous market. 

Contrary to popular belief, there are no schools around here - just mountains.