I arrived at the main road, and was somehow attached by mosquitos on the way, and a bus pulled up straight away. I jumped on and was on my way to Santa Elena. I was tired, well hungover, the bus was busy and fairly uneventful. Before I knew it I arrived at the station. I needed to take a second bus to Guayaquil and after visiting the bathroom, as there are none on the busses, I wondered up and down the rows of booths and couldn’t see a sign. It’s difficult for me to ask as I still can’t pronounce the name. I saw a line of people all at the same booth and I took a risk that this was the right bus, it is after all the biggest town around, well in the country even, and soon I was on one of the back seats on my way. This journey was 2 1/2 hours and the ride was so bumpy that I thought I was going to be sick.
I was back at the large terminal with the shopping mall. I decided I needed a break and brought some water and food whilst I researched how to get to Cuenca. I found out the bus would be another 4 hours but that it would pass through the Cajas national park at close to 4000 metres. I was excited to get back into the mountains so off I headed. Tourist information pointed me to the right booth. I was told there was a bus leaving in 10 minutes so I’d brought my ticket and went to the second floor where I jumped on to enjoy the ride.
Despite it being stupidly hot and overcast the journey was beautiful. I’d recommend that you try doing this is daylight. When the bus approached the mountains the skies cleared overhead and as we circled higher there was low lying mist in the valleys that made the mountains look like lakes. I didn’t manage to get any pictures.
I arrived in Cuenca in the dark and headed straight to my hostel. After checking in and dropping my things I went to get some food. Being a Sunday most places were closed so I went to a local looking restaurant that brought me the wrong food and potatoes instead of chips as they had run out. The food was fine and i didn’t complain as I couldn’t and afterwards I retreated to the hostel for some well deserved rest.
That morning over breakfast I met a couple of other people headed to Parque Nacional Cajas, which is passed on the bus the day before. I didn’t really know much but I had read it was beautiful.
We were told not to leave too early and the hostel owner drew is a map with instructions of several routes, these are also all on maps me. We arrived at the main bus terminal and jumped on a bus to Guayaquil, the journey is 1 hour and costs $2. They will drop you outside of the park entrance and you need to go and register with the park rangers. I decided I wanted to climb a mountain and they informed me that I needed to head further up the road. I met Linda, from Latvia, and we started walking up the road to the trail head. It was immediately stunning and we were lucky to have blue skies.
I was excited to use my camera again and immediately began snapping photos as the path wound its way around the lakes towards the mountain.
Then we started to climb. The peak was not that high, in comparison to where I was standing as the peak was around 4000 metres. I had misjudged how long I’d been at sea level and climbing was hard. It was going to get harder. But the views were worth it as soon as we started the climb.
I was really glad that Linda was with me as I seemed to be unable to follow the trail. Luckily she was able to follow the trail signs. We made slow progress as it was ridiculously steep and the altitude made it hard work. But still little by little we inched towards the top.
I took some fun pictures of flowers.
And then we went higher and higher. We kept needing to stop for breaks. And before we knew it we reached the top. Which I’m sure you can see below was completely worth the pain.
I stopped and are one of my sandwiches and then we followed the path along the ridge taking in the beauty of the valley. I should point out that this is one tiny section of the park. It stretches for miles in all directions and I’d love to explore it further one day.
The park rangers had told us specifically to take this route as I had wanted to approach the mountain from the side we would descend. When we started going down I could see why. This has to be one of the steepest descents I’ve made during my time here. If I was still scared of heights I’d be a little nervous but I’ve banished that fear and I was with a friend as we stumbled and tripped down the face of the mountain. Still it was beautiful and for a time I thought I’d never make it to the lake. But we did.
After we made it to the lake we decided to take the pink path. It was another 4 kilometres through beautiful landscapes. First we walked through some pristine forest and took a detour to find a cave, as Linda is a huge cave fan. Then we worked out way past some lakes. The sun really started to come out and created some beautiful shots. One of the lakes is covered in these reeds. I loved the colours and the way they interacted with the landscape. At one point we came across a hill and saw that there were boulders organised in a line. There is an Inca Trail through this part of the world and we wondered if they were paced here on purpose.
Okay, this is my favourite view and the desktop wallpaper if you ever need one. That’s why there are lots of shots so indulge me.
Afterwards it was just a case of following the path to the end. We thought we found the Inca Path and reos a delicate route between private land that was fenced off.
We waited on the main road for the bus but Linda suggested that we also try hitchhiking,, as there was only one bus an hour. I was happy to as I’d only accidentally hitchhiked once in Peru and at the time I thought I was going to die. About 5 cars went past and then a father pulled up with his two daughters. We jumped in the back and chatted in English and Spanish. He was really nice and knew some English. It turns out that this si another city were English speakers are coming to retire and you will see why later. I suppose as Ecuador uses the dollar it makes it a perfect country to move to.
The father was an estate agent so gave us a little insight into going’s on and then dropped us close to the city centre. Linda and I said our goodbyes and I returned to the hostel, exhausted, with a little altitude sickness but very happy. I think this is one of the most beautiful days in my time here. I tested and then went out for some noodles.
Afterwards at the hostel I got talking to one of the owners, Jude. She is from just outside Brighton and did the same as me but ended up meeting her husband here and they run the hostel together. We soon realised that I used to work with her brother in law at the BBC. It’s a smaller world than you think. I really enjoyed this hostel as I met some lovely people and had great breakfasts along with playing with the cat.
I was leaving for my next destination later the following day, i had to move fast in Ecuador as I didn’t have much time. The city is beautiful and i wanted to explore it so I went on the tour during the morning. And this is why I think I could live here.
The tour was really good and the city has an abundance of churches and amazing art and artictecturhe.
Also did you know that Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador? Yep! I’ll flesh out that story when I have time but for now here are the photos.
Afterwards I headed to the hostel, grabbed my bags and flagged a cab to the bus station. Ready for the next stop on my adventure.