Total distance travelled: 49,976.1 kilometres (31,041.06 miles)
Waterproof coat… check!
Wet and overcast morning… check!
Sounds like the perfect scenario for a walk in the mountains surrounding Cuenca, doesn’t it.
Still, that’s exactly what we did, getting ourselves on board a bus and heading to a rather dull looking and damp feeling Parque Nacional Cajas.
It was a brave call from Sarah, who’d spent the past couple of days feeling basically like shit (to put it bluntly), yet she dragged herself out on a dull day that promised to be one full of effort, as we went for a hike around what we hoped would be a stunning national park.
It felt a fairly steamy bus ride into the mountains, a combination of the warmth inside and the chill out making for some pretty foggy windows throughout the hour or so long trip.
Unsure of where exactly we needed to alight, we simply followed the crowd, by which I mean followed the fellow Gringos, who were possibly doing the same.
Still, we all managed to get off at the right spot, thanks to the conductor who made sure we knew we were there.
Suddenly, it was a case of rapidly donning our layers, as the air was indeed crisp!
We made our way to the office, signed into the parks visitor register, before a quick bathroom stop.
This wasn’t to relieve the bladder, rather an opportunity for us to shed our jeans and don our thermal leggings (over which the jeans were then worn. We weren’t prancing around going for a thespian look).
Yes, it was that cold.
Finally, we got the chance to appreciate our first view of the park…
Not a bad introduction indeed!
The trails initiate near the shores of the nearby, rather picturesque lake, and not knowing which direction was ideal, we began to do a circuit in a clockwise fashion.
Thankfully at this point the rain remained at bay, indeed there was even the odd glimpse of blue sky, but the air around us did retain a bit of a chill, I’m sure aided by the nearby lake and very damp ground upon which we walked.
It was a mixture of jutting rocks, muddied paths and puddles (which we did our best to avoid), but most of all it just felt and looked wonderful!
Initially we’d been veering slightly away from the lake, following in the footsteps of a couple of young girls who’d motored on ahead.
Eventually however, we found our own way, opting for a branch in the path that brought us back closer to the shore.
When we later spied the same girls, now behind us as the scrambled down a muddied slope, we felt further vindicated in our decision.
It felt like we’d been plonked into my imagination, a Tolkien-esque meets Scottish highlands kind of setting.
Just us, the very occasional gringo sighting, and the odd small rodent that scurried away whenever I tried to take a picture.
It had to happen, but thankfully when the rains did return, we’d managed to build up a head of steam and so didn’t truly feel the cold as much as we otherwise may have.
Our planning for this outing had us settled on the lesser of the available trails, but it was about an hour, maybe a little more, when we were probably about two thirds of the way through circumnavigating the lake, that we discovered the actual starting point of this particular trail!
Turns out we should have turned left at Albuquerque, or at the very least, at the office when we started our walk.
We felt that we’d had a pretty good workout by now, I was also mindful of how Sarah was feeling, then some looming clouds, darker than anything else that we’d spied for the day, made our decision for us.
It was time to wrap up this walk, amongst this admittedly stunning landscape.
As this new front rolled through, visibility also plummeted so it was a decision that we made without any further regrets.
It was cold, it was damp, but it was also stunning!
We truly enjoyed our brief stroll through the Parque Nacional Cajas…
* The bus each way from Cuenca (which deposited us at Terminal Terrestre despite our departure from a bus station on the south side of town) cost $2.00 US per person.
* Park entrance is a very generous FREE!