Mejía: The Valley of 9 … Waterfalls?
By Shannon Cantor | June 12, 2019
The Mejía Canton of Ecuador is renowned for its 9 Volcanos, one of which being the tallest active mountains in the world, the stratovolcano, Cotopaxi. However, despite the fame (and for good reason) of this dramatic landscape, Mejía’s best kept secrets are its stunning waterfalls. They adorn the crevices of natural ravines, and bring bubbling diversity to the volcanic valley.
Specifically, in the Mejía Canton’s western region of Manuel Cornejo Astorga (also known as Tandapi), locals pride themselves on three distinct waterfall sites. They source from the highland mountains, forming as the Andes begin their descent into the coastal region. Found nearby the modern road that runs from Alóag, Mejía to the province of Santo Domingo, they in fact skirt along ancient, pre-Incan route that was used by the commercial Yumbos, or Karas, people (Canton Mejía, 2019). Their names are Canchacoto, Nápac, and the Waterfall of Love—each as diverse in form, access, and essence as these mysterious titles entice (Manuel, 2019).
- Canchacoto: So Close, and Yet So Far
Although Canchacoto Waterall is merely a 15-minute walk from the main highway, it feels a world and half away. The walk takes visitors through a winding path in the endemic forest, with large bromeliad-covered trees that shade out all sight and noise of the road left behind. Like Alice in her Wonderland, those who venture will weave through the path’s mesmerizing landscape, until finally arriving at the magical finale: Canchacoto itself. The waters come tumbling 40 meters down, spit out of the small opening between the lush forest brush (Canton Mejía, 2019).
- Nápac: A River Flowing
This is a cluster of waterfalls, gathering high in the Andes and streaming down to form the Napac River. The waters run through the surrounding Cloud Forest, as they continue their journey towards the still-distant coastline. Although visible from the main highway, the cascades form a starting point for long and winding trails that circuit through the area’s unique and stunning ecosystem (Canton Mejía, 2019)(Manuel, 2019). The canton features a developed network of community ecotourism, which employs local guides to provide nationals and foreigners alike with an experience at the magic of these falls.
- Waterfall of Love: Finding Romance in the City
A thin stream of water, cascading from 20 meters in height, adorns the city landscape. The “Cascada de Amor” brings nature into the town center, and juxtaposes the adjacent water-bottling factory with its free-flowing stream. It’s the idyllic scene for locals and visitors alike to fall in love.
Waterfalls: Rejuvenation for Us and Our Pacha Mama Alike
But more than just finding solace and love in the energy of a fresh spring, these waterfalls provide a source of healing. For the early indigenous cultures, water sources were always points of spiritual cleansing and concordance with the Pacha Mama (mother Earth); they were sources of life itself, as water provides this vital element to human existence. Throughout the Andean communities—dominated by the great Incan civilization—a deep understanding of the Earth and the stars drove the people to bathe in these fresh springs each year on the night of June 21st. The summer solstice was celebrated and honored by this ritual cleansing, connecting humanity, water, sun, and Earth—in thanksgiving of one planting cycle and preparation for the next.
Still today, communities across the Ecuadorian Highlands join together to practice this honored tradition, in these sacred sources of water. And although the perspective may be slightly altered, scientific studies likewise continue to prove the importance of running water for the revitalization of the human psyche. According to a study on the benefits of flowing water, this simple element “contains negative ions, which are released into the air when water tumbles or cascades from a waterfall. Negative ions affect mood and the ability to concentrate, clean the air, and promote a sense of tranquility and inner peace” (Health, 2019). Another source highlights that even the sound of water reduces stress and creates a naturally soothing environment for the human brain (Brown, 2017). 75% of the human brain is comprised of water, just as is 71% of the Earth’s surface (https://www.fix.com/blog/benefits-of-being-near-water/); it’s really little wonder that humanity has always and instinctively connected to the imperative appreciation of this life blood.
I Can’t Help Falling in Love
Like moth to the flame—without the drawbacks of burn—people have congregated at the pooling feet of falling water. A cascade’s natural beauty and unmatched energy attracts and invites, soothes and inspires. Ecuador’s diversity of high mountains and striking ravines forms ripe terrain for stunning waterfalls; Mejía is no exception, and in fact, is especially suited for the landscape. Straddling from the highest peaks to the moist Cloud Forest that begins descending towards lower altitudes, the canton provides bubbling springs of rejuvenation– for generations a local secret, that now is being responsibly opened to inclusion of visitors worldwide.
Brown, N. (2017, May 19). Blue Mind: The Health Benefits of Being by the Water. Retrieved June 12, 2019, from https://www.fix.com/blog/benefits-of-being-near-water/
Canton Mejía. (2019). Ecoturismo en Mejía [Brochure]. Machachi: Author.
Health Benefits of Flowing Water – Home and Office Waterfalls. The Benefits of Owning an Indoor Waterfall. (2019). Retrieved June 12, 2019, from http://tropicsnorthstudios.com/waterfall-benefits/indoor-waterfall-benefits.htm
Manuel Cornejo Astorga. (2019). Retrieved June 9, 2019, from https://viajapormejia.com/en/destinations/manuel-cornejo-astorga/#1519408734948-5f2dfe92-75b6
Image Credit: https://ec.viajandox.com/mejia/cascada-napac-A286