The Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve is 17 km north of Quito in the province of Pichincha of Ecuador. Pululahua is a Quichua word that means “cloud of water” or fog. It is a collapsed volcano with great biodiversity and unique geological formations. It is due to this uniqueness that it was declared a Geobotanical Reserve.
The Pondoña Hill Is the central lava dome formed in during a later eruption 500 years after the volcano collapsed. There is also a small crater in the top eastern (frontal) side of the dome. This dome also has a trail that provides access to the area behind the hill. The views of the crater from the top of the trail are fabulous, and it is possible to see its own small crater.
Things to see:
The Chivo Rock: It is a smaller lava dome in the southern part of the crater which ends on a sharp point. There is a trail with access to the summit where there is space for two tents. The water trail starts at its base, where the water tanks for the community are installed, and continues southward to reach the watersheds. Here you will find many water tanks used to trap the mountain water that condenses in the highland cloud forest. Please do not foul the water, be careful not to cause any damage to this fragile ecosystem and water collection area.
El Mirador: It is an observation terrace at 2833 meters near the south west side of the caldera with access via paved road. It is has a great view of the front side of the caldera from which you can observe the agricultural west side, El Pondoña hill, El Chivo Rock, and some of the caldera walls to the North. You can also access the Reserve from El Mirador via 1.4 km foot trail that descends 300 meters to the bottom of the caldera.
Limestone Kilns: The extraction of calcium carbonate, as lime, was the main activity remembered by the oldest locals, and that many people came to work in the limestone kilns. It was similar to a gold rush. They say that hoards of mules use to carry the lime out of the crater. We have found twelve limestone kilns in the Pululahua area. These are tall rock structures 3 to 5 meters tall and have an internal diameter of 1 to 1.4 meters. They look like a round chimney. The limestone was removed from the walls and carried by mules to the kiln. The limestone was loaded in the kiln and mixed with wood, and coal in different proportions. A fire was built underneath the kiln which started the burning process until all of the wood and coal is consumed. This process lasted two to three days; at the end, the purified lime fell to the bottom where it was bagged. The lime was used in the construction of colonial Quito when the Spanish arrived in the eighteen hundreds. It is mixed with water and an adhesive to make a whitening paint used until today. Almost all of colonial Quito´s white walls are painted with this material. Lime is also mixed with sand, water, and clay to make a mortar like material used for joining rocks, therefore used for building rock walls. The importance of these basic building materials, for a growing city like Quito, made the limestone very important and expensive. This is why the old folks in the area say that lime was as expensive as gold.
Things to do:
Horseback Riding, Trekking, Mountain Biking, are the most popular activities inside the volcano trails. This extinct volcano offers many trails that take you through different ecosystems from the panoramic, inter-Andean valley, to the rainy cloud forest. Most of these trails have been established by the people that habituated this 2500 yr old crater. It is very likely that the Yumbos were the first to travel through this land about 1000 years ago as commercialist between the coast and the highlands. The most important Yumbo site recently discovered in Tulipe is 29 km to the southwest of the Pululahua. It is connected to this crater through trails that cross the Santa Lucia Reserve and the Maquicupuna Reserve. The Caranquis were also near this crater at 15 km to the north east with a pyramid in Alance, this pyramid is also connected to this crater through very old trails that cross the Rio Guallabamba. The Incas also used these trails is their infiltration into the Yumbo and Caranqui civilizations. The Spanish used the same Yumbo trails in their multiple attempts to conquer the Yumbo country, and the province of Esmeraldas. Many of these trails are still used today but most of them have been destroyed by the construction of roads.
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