Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
We arrived into Cuenca with a few hours of daylight and warm temperatures. We walked around for about 30 minutes asking at several hostels for accommodation. We ended up staying at Hostal Niza ($14) on Mariscal Lamar near Mercado 9 de Octubre. This was a decent location, walking distance from the noise of the tourist/old town district with the market offering extremely cheap meals of $1.50ea.
Toby did a little walk around in the evening to see what was around. Surprisingly there was very little choice for dinner, with the market closed for meals. It was safe enough to walk around though there isn’t a whole lot to see and do outside of the tourist area.
The next day Toby had his mind on watching the Colombia vs Brazil World Cup game, so we had a quiet day of walking around the city before the game started at 3pm. The market provided our cheap lunch along with some interesting views of pigs.
Next on the list was a walk around old town with the New Cathedral the first interesting sight right on the central park. This cathedral is enormous and quite impressive. It has 3 distinctively coloured blue domes on top that can be seen from quite a distance away.
The other main “place to see” seems to be the river that borders old town and new town. It has walking paths on both sides and is worth a visit for at least a look.
We then went on search for a bar or restaurant with some local atmosphere for the world cup game. This appeared to be harder than expected with no real luck in finding a place except for a bar on the river with a bunch of white tourists and expensive beer; not what we wanted. We then got lucky by finding a fast food place full of Colombians eagerly watching the game. Perfect! The beer was cheap at only $1.50, so what more could we want except for Colombia to win. Sadly, it wouldn’t be their day and the fun was over at the end of 90 minutes as Colombia exited the World Cup. Our friends in Colombia would later tell us that the party still kept on going regardless of their loss.
Cuenca to Saraguro
We’d had enough of Cuenca and the next morning we moved onto the sleepy little mountain town of Saraguro. We took a local bus ($0.25ea) to the main terminal in Cuenca and located a Viajeros Internacional bus leaving in 30 minutes. We’d read online of long travel times and other bad service with this company, but found none of it on our trip. We paid $5ea for a 3 hour trip including a small drink and packet of chips. Toby got unlucky by getting a sparkling apple juice drink that was far from tasty and not recommended for others.
We got into Saraguro and found cheap accommodation at Residencial Saraguro ($12). Toby still had football on his mind as the final Quaterfinals would be played today. We walked around the little town to get our bearings and view the parks and market for lunch.
We went in search of a view point above town, but it wasn’t long until the rain set in. This would end the hiking and we returned to the hostel to watch the World Cup and relax.
Saraguro was always just an overnight stop on the way South, except we’d landed in time for what was meant to be the traditional Sunday market. We think the Lonely Planet may have over played this one as it was meant to be the local indigenous people flocking to town to do their weekly shopping. We went to the market in the morning, ate breakfast, but didn’t see anything out of what would be normal. We gave up quickly after a couple of sneaky photos and got on a bus to Loja ($1.75ea / 1hr).
Loja is one of the biggest cities in the South of Ecuador at around 150,000 people. The bus terminal is about 2km North of town, but we decided to walk down stopping at accommodation along the way. The first decent and cheap place was Hostal Vallto near the main market for $16/night. We went in search of lunch/almuerzo and found a few places in the market for $1.50/$1.75ea. We then continued towards the “Puerta de la Ciudad”, gate to the city. This is a fairly unique structure and quite photogenic.
We continued on our walk through the city with a couple of stops in parks and also some interesting buildings.
Toby even stopped for a $0.25 cone of ice cream outside the main cathedral on the central park.
With it being a Sunday, as is traditional in this part of the world, most things were closed and it was a bit of a ghost town. Take note of the Australia, other countries in the world use Sunday to be with family and relax, not working or going shopping.
We rounded out our walk by going up to the “Mirador el Pedestal”. This is a short but quite rewarding walk with a good view of the city.
With the weather constantly changing and high levels of annoying rain, we returned to the hostal and caught up on some admin stuff including blog writing.
Podocarpus Park – Cajanuma Entrance
We really weren’t sure what to expect with this, so we went to the tourist information office to see what we could find out. We were told to take the local bus (Transportes Vilcabambaturis – $0.50ea) to the entrance and skip the $12 taxi ride. The bus took about 25 minutes to get us to the entrance where we had to sign in. It seems as though this park is now free to access, the $10 fee no longer exists. The access road is 8km up to the first refuge and is fairly easy except for some storm damage that means cars can’t go past at about the 6km mark. At the park entrance is a simple map, where we were aiming for the 5km mirador trail.
The hike up to the refuge takes about 2 hours and is fairly scenic in its own right and since it is a road, it’s quite smooth and easy apart from the climb and altitude. The weather was playing its usual games and we were in and out of rain showers, even in full sunshine. This made for some amazing rainbow photo opportunities.
Toby was determined to get up to the refuge and when the rain set in we debated when to turn around. Toby was hoping for the rain to clear while we were at the refuge in hopes of getting onto one of the trails. This sadly didn’t happen as the clouds seem to stick to the tops of these hills all day and dump rain. We abandoned the hike and returned to Loja.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates.http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/