Back on the Panamericana, 20km south of Guamote, a rough 36-kilometre dirt road branches east from the village of Palmira to the Lagunas de Ozogoche, a cluster of beautiful lakes sitting high on the páramo. The lakes are best known as the site of a curious phenomenon no one has been able to explain: periodically, usually in September, hundreds of migratory plovers (locally called cuvivi) quite suddenly plunge deep into the icy waters of the lakes and kill themselves. Each year the Ozogoche community pays tribute to this little-understood event in a festival of traditional music and dancing, which visitors are welcome to attend; contact the Fundación Cultural Flores Franco for more details (t 03/2943168 or t 09/3395005, [email protected]). Interestingly, the spur of mountain overlooking the lakes is known as Ayapungo – Quichua for “door of death”. If you’re happy to overlook these morbid details, the area makes for great wild camping, though you’ll need either your own transport or a camioneta from Guamote to get here (around $15–20).

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