Without volcanoes, there would be no Andes. Fortunately for the world, Ecuador’s volcanoes continue to produce their famous eruptions, which result in growing mountains in the Middle of the World. One of the most spectacular spots to witness this natural wonder is in the Cotopaxi National Park, with its perfect cone shape volcano that is still active, and a safe place for visitors. The volcano regularly spouts vapor clouds, and from time to time some ashes.

Fertile areas like what is known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes, named by German explorer Alexander Von Humboldt, just 90 km south from the capital city of Quito have benefited from volcanic ashes in the past. In general, volcanic ashes is good because it is full of all kinds of elements and nutrients that regenerate the soil.

An example of the effects that volcanoes have on agricultural lands is found here in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian soil is very rich in nutrients mainly because of the large eruptions over thousands of years that left the region blanketed with very thick deposits of tephra, fragments of volcanic rock, which have since weathered to enrich the soil. The region has been intensively cultivated since before the Spanish arrived. The land is richly planted with potatoes, vegetables or flowers, particularly roses nowadays. Every square foot of this rich soil is used. For example, even a small farm will have fava beans, cauliflower, and onions between the trellis rows, as well as winter beans and lettuce on the trellises. The farm will also be surrounded by crops of quinoa and legumes, Lupin, herbs, chili, and maize. It also is a large tomato-growing region.

Visitors can hike around the park and experience an incredible range of plants and wildlife, also enjoying spectacular views of the moon-like landscape that surrounds the Cotopaxi volcano. A day in the region could also be complemented with an excursion to the colorful Indian markets of Saquisili, Pujili, or Zumbahua. In these popular markets, trading continues under the exchange of agricultural products, a tradition that dates back to the Inca times. Artisans and indigenous merchants from many towns travel to these markets to supply their own stock and to trade their products.

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