The beautiful city of Cuenca
Trip Start May 01, 2010
90Trip End Apr 30, 2011
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After seeing much poverty in Ecuador, Cuenca felt like a different country, more European feeling than Latin American. There is obviously considerably more wealth here. Most of the towns that we have passed through in the rest of the country consist of buildings that are half-finished, usually made of breezeblocks with metal poles sticking out of the roofs, and have streets strewn with rubbish
We are staying in a hostal located on the sixth floor of a building overlooking an old monastery with a palm filled courtyard and kitchen gardens. We spent the first couple of days wandering the streets of the old town, peering into some of the old churches and sampling various cakes and ice-creams.
Yesterday, we joined a guided trek in the beautifully bleak Parque Nacional de Cajas. Cajas encompasses 2800 sq km of moorland or paramo dotted with hundreds of glacial lakes. The vegetation consists of different grasses and shrubs, ground bromeliads, big yellow aster flowers, tiny and delicate Alpine flowers that huddled close to the ground and small Polylepis trees that grow in sheltered hollows. We were driven by minibus to Tres Cruces, one of the highest points in the park at 4100 metres where we stood for a few minutes shivering in the cold wind. We then descended to 3500 metres to begin our three hour walk. We passed several lakes and entered a small forest of Polylepis trees
At the end of the walk, we drove further down the valley to a restaurant where we feasted on a traditional and very tasty potato soup followed by trout. To drink, I had a glass of tomato-tree juice while Tom had Naranjilla juice, both of which are delicious. After lunch, we drove to a Laguna Llaviucu, a beautiful lake nestled in a classic U-shaped valley.
We are not sure how much longer we will be in Cuenca for. Our Steripen (UV water sterilizer) broke a few weeks ago and we are awaiting the arrival of a new one which is being delivered to Cuenca by DHL. Cuenca is so pleasant though that we are in no rush. Hopefully it will get here in the next few days and we will be able to continue on to Vilcabamba as planned before we enter Peru.