Navigation Pages

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Over the Hills and Far Away

We were a bit fretful about coming back to Ecuador after our wide ranging adventure to Australia. Whatever would we do with ourselves? There are no extended holidays to plan, no SCUBA diving to train for, but there are major limitations on our funds after surviving a first world holiday on a pensioner's budget.
Church in Banos de Cuenca
Pastoral views
Little gold hummingbird
Our quandary was resolved by a weekend hiking group. We've been heading out, with some regularity, to the outskirts of Cuenca to enjoy unknown (to us) neighbourhoods, new restaurants and the camaraderie of like-minded individuals. We may not be the fastest hikers, but we do enjoy the journey.
One of the many rivers

The first surprising experience was having a woman demand that we give her $5. ("Soy pobrecita, deme cinco dolares!" - "I'm a poor woman, give me $5!") I, conveniently, never have cash if Ron is with me, so I apologised and kept going. ("Lo siento senora, no tengo ningun dinero" - I'm sorry Madam, I have no money".) It's unusual for beggars to be so bold, and to be honest, she came around from the side of a fairly nice house that she insisted wasn't hers - which is entirely possible.

The next surprise was finding a beautiful little French restaurant in the outskirts of town, called Le Petit Jardin. I had a gorgeous fried trout in lemon butter. The only thing missing was vegetables, but we are in Ecuador, so allowances must be made.

The third surprise is how far you can get on a quarter; choose the right bus and you can ride for an hour on a thin 25 cents. You wend through the city and into the suburbs (a rather loose description of the little towns that are slowly expanding to meet the city limits) and go all the way to the end of the line.

Then you disembark and hope like heck that someone in the group knows where we're trying to get to or has a smart phone to find our way. It's always fun to try and get directions from the locals, who seem astounded to see gringos, let alone one's that can speak at least some Spanish. (I call it the "talking monkey" phenomenon.) At the end of the hike, we usually try to grab a meal, or at the very least a beer. 

We also talk of many things, inane and profound and generally enjoy each others' company. It's a great mix of people from different backgrounds and places, but we manage to get along.
Some of the crew on the hike
Our last hike was more daring. We headed out into the Cajas (an hours drive from El Centro) and took on an 8.5km hike at a higher elevation. What you must understand is that hiking at elevation (for children of sea level) is much like climbing to the 40th floor of a building. (Forget how you feel for the first 5 flights, think about all the rest.) 
This never changes, at least not much - you gasp for breath on inclines like "the Little Engine that Could". What does change, eventually, is your acceptance that there is less air and it won't kill you. It's especially hard for newbies to embrace this concept, but over time they realize it to be true.
Cajas colours
Fresh from the set of Vikings
one half of our guide team - Axel

Sample of some of the easier trail
The sacrifice is worth it. The views are stunning and we had such a gorgeous day that it was impossible not to enjoy the sweeping landscapes, bright blue sky and shimmering lakes.

Shahbaz coming up the hill

So, yes, we've found something to fill our time, at least for a day of the week, and for that we're grateful. It's a good gig, if you can get it.


  1. The scenery really does look beautiful, so different from hiking the mountains here on the coast.
    Do you ever travel to other small towns for walking tours or hikes?

    1. Yes, we hop the bus and head out to various towns. The scenery is similar throughout the area, but the little villages are always interesting. It's fun to talk to the locals and always surprising which will have a bit of English.