At Llaviucu Lake there is a picturesque ruin. Our guide told us it was the site of a German Brewery that was established there before WWI. What a fab location. Now the only other buildings there are a lodge where you can stay (but you need your own linen and everything) and a covered walkway on the far side of the lake, part of the Sendero Uku path around the lake. This is an easy walk around the lake once you traverse the narrow, pebbled road to get there.
For this trip we travelled with Arutam Ecotours, meeting our transport and guide at a healthy 6 am to start the day. Parque Cajas is a large park, and our introduction was at one of the lower entrances, Llaviucu Lake. It’s only about 30 minutes from Cuenca central. With a guide we went to parts you might not otherwise see, but the walk around the lake would be easy enough to do by yourself. A great benefit (besides information about the birds, animals and location) was that with a guide we were let into the park a good 1.5 hours before it officially opened. One of my favourite trips for this hol.
Had an outing with Cuencabestours to check out Ecuador’s most significant Cañari & Inca ruins near the town of Ingapirca. The Cañari were the people who lived at the site for hundreds? of years before the Incans – they were eventually overtaken by Incan culture but some elements of their culture are thought to exist at the site. Of course Machu Picchu in Peru is the outstanding example of Inca ruins, but Ingapirka is remarkable in its own way. Apparently some parts have been ‘rebuilt’ but the Inca trail and Sun Temple are original and impressive when you realise how long they have been there, exposed to the elements. On the day we went (during the week) there were not many people around, which was great. The archaeological park is surrounded by farms, so from the site we also observed someone ploughing a steep and rocky field with bullocks. Apparently farmers do find items but at the moment there is not much government investment in archaeology. You can also do an enjoyable short walk once you leave the park to see the ‘Face of the Inca’. Our guide was very skeptical that it had been carved, but nevertheless it did look imposing.
So far Cuenca feels like a laid back uni town. Centro Histórico has some amazing looking buildings, with many impressive churches and plazas to admire. So far my favourite location is San Sebastian square. There is a cute park, an impressive church, a local brewery bar (Jodeco) and a modern art museum (with the latter still to be experienced). On the afternoon and evening we were there, we saw very well-dressed wedding guests making their way to the church (and looking longingly at the bar). One of the photographers used a drone to capture aerial shots of guests and the plaza’s pigeons. There were kids playing in the fountain, dog fights and a subsequent argument between the dog owners, people riding bikes. The bride waited in her black Mercedes as more guests arrived. There was a busker playing first a hollowed out stick, then a recorder. Then later a band, who looked liked they should play reggae, but actually played a cool kind of jazz, entertained bar and plaza patrons. After the wedding ceremony, there was a fireworks display virtually in our laps. It was like being in a Fellini film.
Visiting the Quilotoa crater from Black Sheep Inn was an easy 45 minute jeep ride. Once at Quilotoa the views were spectacular. We had been thinking we would walk to a neighbouring town Guayama, but decided on the day to take a good look round the crater instead. We walked part way round the ridge and then did the descent. It was pretty steep but the views were amazing.
Our first morning at the Inn was bright and clear – fantastic. We went for an amazing walk to the top of the ridge behind the Inn. Past the llamas, and a donkey, up some narrow goat tracks to reach the top. The outing was a bit more exciting than expected though. We had been warned that you need to take a ‘dog stick’ to scare off any over-excited farm dogs that like barking at passing traffic. Unfortunately on top of the ridge we had a rather aggressive one, who turned out to be the leader of a pack of four – which had us waving our sticks and walking away in a determined manner – and kind of spoiled the ‘nice walk in the country’ ambience. But plenty of relaxing in lovely surroundings in the afternoon so it was easy to get back to a more ‘tranquilo’ state.
I hadn’t really thought about the drive from Quito to Black Sheep Inn, just that it was going to take about three to four hours. So the fabulous scenery on the trip to the Central Highlands was a bonus. Complete with Ecuadorian music and then disco hits of the 70s as the soundtrack. Good driving music in anyone’s language, obviously. And our driver was a local which was handy – it was a pretty windy road as we got closer to Chugchilán, and in a couple of places landslides had rendered the road one lane. After stunning mountain views the last 30 minutes of the trip was slow as visibility was minimal due to the afternoon cloud rolling in.
A post from Not Your Average American alerted M to a different part of Centro Histórico for us to explore. San Marco is near the old centre but has a very different feel as there are still many people living in the area, and businesses are very low key. Many of the houses in Junin Street had tiles with photos of previous inhabitants and some words about their lives. Predictably, M found un bar de cerveza artesenal, Sirka, for us to visit while we were exploring. Sirka is a great location to visit for beers, food (we only tried the hommus, but that was good) and quirky artwork.