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These “Walking Trees” in Ecuador Can Allegedly Move Up to 20 Meters per Year

The Socratea exorrhiza is perhaps the world’s only mobile tree. They say its complicated system of roots also serves as legs, helping the tree constantly move towards sunlight as the seasons change. Walking trees can apparently move up to 2-3 cm per day, or 20 meters per year. That may not sound like much, but it’s pretty much a marathon by tree-standards.

Rainforest guides in Latin American countries like Ecuador have been telling tourists about the amazing walking trees for decades now. The most common version of the story is that the tree slowly ‘walks’ in search of the sun by growing new roots towards the light and allowing its old roots to die. The unusual roots, split from the trunk a few feet above the ground, add to the illusion of the tree having legs.

“As the soil erodes, the tree grows new, long roots that find new and more solid ground, sometimes up to 20m,” explained Peter Vrsansky, a palaeobiologist from the Slovak Academy of Sciences who lived for a few months in the Unesco Sumaco Biosphere Reserve, about a day’s journey from Ecuador’s capital Quito.

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Meet Baltazar, the Last Ice Merchant of Ecuador

While the rest of the world reaches into the freezer for ice, there’s someone on this planet who actually climbs mountains to chop it off. Meet Baltazar Ushca, Ecuador’s last hielero, or ‘iceman’.

Ushca is the last surviving practitioner of his family’s trade – passed on from father to son for centuries. At least once a week, the 68-year-old spends five hours hiking up Mount Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest peak. He keeps going until he reaches the ice mine that has fed him and his family for generations.

Negotiating the steep 14,700-foot path is no joke, especially at Uscha’s age. But he continues the family tradition of cutting ice from the cave and shaping it into blocks. He then transports the blocks, by mule, down to the nearest city of Riobamba, where they are sold.

Despite his age and his short stature (4ft 11in) Ushca can carry two 66-lb blocks of ice on his shoulders. And he’s quite happy working on the mountain that he considers to be sacred. “This is a man’s work,” he said, proudly. “I am happy when I walk. Father Chimborazo looks after me.”

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Riding a Swing on the Edge of a Cliff in Ecuador

It’s called the Swing at the End of the World and it could literally be the end of you, as this extreme attraction in the mountains of Ecuador lets thrill-seekers swing over an abyss without any safety measures whatsoever.

Hiking up the path to Bellavista from the edge of Baños, Ecuador, you reach a viewpoint and a seismic monitoring station named La Casa del Árbol (The Treehouse). As the name suggests it’s a small house built in a tree, at the edge of a canyon. The view from up here alone is worth the trip, but for adrenalin junkies, La Casa del Árbol offers a unique bonus – a swing hanging over the precipice. Believe it or not many of the people who come here actually use it just to see what it’s like to swing into the void, and the internet is full of scary photos of them hanging over the abyss. It’s reportedly a great way to keep yourself entertained when the clouds block the view of Ecuador’s rumbling Tungurahua volcano, but just I can’t stop thinking about the possibility of one of the lines, or the thin metal beam supporting it breaking which would most likely cause the rider to fall to his death. I know, I’m a coward, no need to rub it in.

 

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