Posts

Hiking in Upper Cajas National Park – Cuenca, Ecuador (Episode 79)

Please SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel...

On this excursion outside Cuenca, Ecuador, we went to Upper Cajas in the Cajas National Park. Edwin picked us up about 9:30AM and the drive took us about 45 minutes to reach the check in station.

Cuenca to Cajas Map

Entry into the park is free, but we did have to sign in at the building by the parking lot before venturing down the trail toward the lake.

Upper Cajas Lake

We followed Ruta 1 Rosada, which was an easy/intermediate trail. There was quite a bit of elevation gain and loss with a few spots that were quite difficult to traverse.

Upper Cajas Ruta 1 Rosada

We saw lots of mushrooms and beautiful flowers, but this lone yellow flower set against a dark backdrop was truly stunning.

Yellow Flower

These circus flowers were also visually captivating.

Circus Flowers

Edwin was nice enough to hike up the 1,000 foot incline at the end of the hike to get the van. My legs haven’t fully recovered from the nerve damage so they were very weak by that point. Edwin sent us down the hill to the lower parking lot where he picked us up. If you need a safe and reliable driver who speaks fluent English and really takes care of his clients, Contact Us for an email introduction.

Edwin

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Hiking in Lower Cajas National Park – Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 72)

Please SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel...

We went on another hiking adventure just 40 minutes west of Cuenca to Lower Cajas, which is part of Cajas National Park.

Lower Cajas National Park Map

It took about 10 to 15 minutes to drive from highway 582 to the trailhead parking lot. It was free to enter, but we had to show our cedulas (or passports would work). There are no food services so bring your own snacks.

Lower Cajas Sign

After a short 5 minute walk from the parking lot, the covered jungle trail opens up to Lake Llaviucu (pronounced ya-vē-oo-koo), a picturesque glacial mountain valley lake nestled between two high mountain ridges. Llaviucu is a Quechua name, which is the native language spoken by Ecuador’s first people.

Cajas Lake Llaviucu

Lower Cajas Lake Llaviucu

Lower Cajas Lake Llaviucu

The valley is dotted with boulders left by ancient glaciers.

Lower Cajas Glacial Rock

The mountain views in Lower Cajas are simply amazing. Indescribable. My camera and video skills did NOT do it justice. You really have to see it for yourself, if you’re able.

Lower Cajas Mountain

Lower Cajas Valley

Sometimes we felt like we were in the movie Avatar with the steep mountains above and clouds below the peak making them look like they were hovering over the earth.

Lower Cajas Mountain Clouds

Lower Cajas National Park is an alpine rainforest so it’s wet and humid, but a little chilly. We recommend taking multiple layers that are easy to put on and take off. The temperature varied quite a lot in the span of a few minutes from chilly to warm and from warm to chilly.

It was also quite muddy and slippery so be sure to take an extra pair of shoes and socks for the ride home (and a plastic bag to put the wet ones in), or some waterproof boots would be even better. Amelia stepped on what looked like a nice grassy area and sank up to her shins in mud. She just laughed like she always does when something like that happens. I would NOT have been happy!

Lower Cajas Muddy Boots

We also spotted lots of beautiful flowers, and if you’re an orchid lover, this is the place to find wild ones. They were growing all over the trees!

Lower Cajas Orchids

Lower Cajas Orchid

We also saw this ancient Polylepis Tree. Edwin said it’s probably over 200 years old. They’re normally very small shrub-like trees.

Lower Cajas Polylepis Tree

Lower Cajas is home to wild llamas who were slightly curious about us, but mostly indifferent. We were able to get very close to them and they didn’t seem scared of us at all. Is it just me or do they remind you of French aristocrats from the 1800’s? Hopefully that doesn’t offend anyone 😬

Lower Cajas Llamas

The park is incredibly well-maintained. The trails are well travelled so they’re easy see, the docks on the lake and the walking bridges are in great condition, and we saw virtually no litter. I did pick up a button that could choke a llama, as well as some fishing line that could strangle a bird, but other than that, the park was very pristine.

Please, leave no trace fellow hikers.

Lower Cajas Button

Edwin has been in several of our videos now and he was elated to share Cajas with us. Ecuadorians are very proud of their country, as they should be.

Edwin is our friend and driver. In fact, he picked us up at the airport in Guayaquil when we first arrived in Ecuador. And he’s been driving us ever since. He’s super safe, extremely nice and very reliable. He also speaks fluent English. If you need a driver here in Cuenca and the surrounding areas, let us know and we’ll connect you with Edwin.

Lower Cajas Edwin

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Ecuador’s Southern Coast Part 5: Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca (Episode 10)

Please SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel...

We couldn’t live at Villa de Los Sueños forever and we eventually had to go back home to Cuenca, Ecuador. This video covers our Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca, including the Guayaquil Bus Terminal and the busetas that run between Cuenca and Guayaquil.

We took a taxi from Guayaquil to La Entrada on our way to the coast, but after speaking with some of the other guests and getting more information from Marsha at the B&B, we decided to take a bus back to Guayaquil. The Cooperativa Libertad Peninsular (CLP) bus was much nicer than the other buses we have taken in Ecuador. The seats were comfortable, the ride was smooth and it didn’t stop as much. I was even able to sleep for about 30 minutes during the 2 hours and 45 minute ride from Olón to Guayaquil, something that NEVER happens to me on public transportation.

Once we got to Guayaquil, we took a taxi from the bus terminal to the Operazuaytur buseta office to catch our small bus back to Cuenca.

Be sure to check out our other videos from this trip:

  1. Ecuador’s Southern Coast Part 1: Cuenca to La Entrada
  2. Ecuador’s Southern Coast Part 2: Olón and Montañita
  3. Ecuador’s Southern Coast Part 3: Puerto Lopez Whale Watching
  4. Ecuador’s Southern Coast Part 4: Villa de Los Sueños and La Entrada

We hope you enjoy the scenery and crazy drivers captured from the window of our bus, as well as our typical humorous interactions as we travel from Olón Ecuador back to our home in Cuenca Ecuador.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places

Cooperativa Libertad Peninsular (CLP)

1 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Libertad Peninsular

This is the tiny bus station in Olón Ecuador from where the CLP bus leaves. It also stops in Montañita, which is only about 10 minutes from Olón on the way to Guayaquil. The cost was $7 per person one-way, which is about double the cost of the regular interprovincial buses.

2 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador CLP Bus

The bus was large and very nice. It had a smooth ride and didn’t stop as much as the interprovincial buses to pick up passengers along the way, although it did stop more than we thought it would.

A Taste of Ecuadorian Driving

3 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Moto TV

These two guys are transporting a large flat screen TV on a motorcycle…on the highway. Think about that for a minute. He’s basically carrying a sail in a high-wind zone. ¡Que loco!

4 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Moto Texter

This guy is on track to win the Darwin Award. You can see in the video that he was on his phone the entire time I filmed him while he was riding his motorcycle on the highway. Dude. That’s a toilet posture. You’re not on the can! You’re on the highway! On a motorcycle! Pay attention!

5 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Rey de Reyes

Religion is a big thing in Ecuador, but I’m always surprised to see commercial vehicles with religious iconography on them. This translates to “King of Kings.”

Guayaquil Bus Terminal

6 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Guayaquil Bus Terminal

This is the Terminal Terrestre de Guayaquil or the Guayaquil Bus Terminal. It’s located just north of the airport. As the crow flies, it would be about a 5 minute walk from the bus terminal to the airport terminal. However, you can’t walk how the crow flies. It would probably be about a 20 minute walk going several blocks out of the way, so the cab drivers make bank charging $5 to drive people the relatively short distance between the terminals.

Guayaquil Bus Terminal

We were VERY impressed with the bus terminal! It was basically a giant shopping mall packed with people coming and going. The restrooms were big, super clean and energy efficient. As usual, the men’s restroom was very quick. It had lots of urinals so I was in and out of there in under 3 minutes. The women’s restroom was a different story. Amelia said it was packed and chaotic, so she opted to wait until we got to the buseta terminal a short cab ride away.

8 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Cab Driver

The taxis are located just outside the north entrance/exit on the main floor of the Guayaquil bus terminal. Our diver saw that I was filming and gave us a pose, making his fellow drivers behind him laugh.

Operazuay Buseta Station

10 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Papa

These guys were goofing around waiting for the buseta to leave at the Operazuay buseta station. Everyone is so friendly in Ecuador, especially to us gringos. They seem to really get a kick out of us, as you’ll see in our videos.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture or usable video shot of the Operazuaytur office, but they were moving to a different location a few days after we were there so it really wouldn’t help anyway. The new office is only a block away, and both are very close (walking distance) to the airport. The busetas cost $12 one-way between Cuenca and Guayaquil. I’m not sure where else they go.

11 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Buseta

We really liked taking the busetas (small buses) through Cajas National Park rather than a big bus. The mountain roads are very curvy with steep inclines and declines so the smaller buseta is able to handle them much better. We took a large interprovincial bus between Cuenca and Machala and the motion almost made me sick. I was able to acquire some motion sickness pills for the return trip.

12 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Mike Wazowski

I bet you didn’t know Mike Wazowski could skateboard! Ecuador is full of murals and I thought these were pretty cool leaving the airport area (more shown in the video).

The Drive from Guayaquil to Cuenca

13 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Bud

American brands are so common here that sometimes it’s easy to forget we’re in a foreign country. The buseta terminal was directly across the street from a Holiday Inn and there was a Sherwin Williams paint store and a Formica store in the same area as the buseta terminal.

14 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Sugar Cane

Sugar cane is one of Ecuador’s exports, along with chocolate, fruits and flowers. This is a baby sugar cane field that was probably planted within the previous month. The sugar cane will be almost as tall as those trees in the middle of the field once it’s fully grown.

15 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Into the Clouds

It takes about an hour and a half from Guayaquil to reach the base of the Andes Mountain range. Then it’s a quick climb to ascend through the clouds.

16 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Cajas

Be sure to check out Part 1 in this series to see more beautiful shots of Cajas National Park.

17 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Amelia Head Bob

Amelia is an expert sleeper. I almost never nap on public transportation, even overnight flights. But it’s common for Amelia to be asleep before they close the door. I’m certainly envious of that trait. Especially when I have to sit there and watch her head bob up and down while I’m bored silly!

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed our trip from Olón to Guayaquil and then to Cuenca, Ecuador in the fifth and final part of our first trip to Ecuador’s Southern Coast. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Ecuador’s Southern Coast Part 1: Cuenca to La Entrada (Episode 6)

Please SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel...

This was our first trip to Ecuador’s Southern Coast and we LOVED IT! We’d heard great things from our friends about Ecuador’s beaches, Montañita and the Bed & Breakfast where we stayed, Villa de Los Sueños. And they were right! It was amazing!

This video covers our trip from Cuenca, Ecuador to La Entrada, Ecuador where Villa de Los Sueños is located. La Entrada is about a 20 minute drive north of Montañita, Ecuador.

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful scenery, and the interesting people we meet along the way on our journey to Ecuador’s southern coast.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places (and Animals)

El Cajas National Park

1 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas National Park is about a 30 minute drive east of Cuenca, Ecuador. It’s located in the highlands of Ecuador and looks like it’s from another world.

2 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas has lots of these perfectly rowed trees. That’s not a genetic mutation; they’ve been planted. We were told that during World War I and before, every tree in Cajas was cut down for timber used to build things, including the war machine.

Over the past 30 years, they’ve been planting trees to regrow the forest that once stood there. It’s kind of a shame that they planted them so geometrically, though. Perhaps a random pattern would be more authentic?

3 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas has lots of hiking trails and it’s home to the world’s largest hummingbird. That makes this a popular place for hikers and bird watchers. However, the weather is very unpredictable and the trails aren’t clearly marked so plan accordingly. Bring layers of clothes, food, water and a GPS so you can find your way back to your car or the bus stop.

4 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

5 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

It truly is otherworldly. This looks like it could be a scene from a sci-fi movie.

6 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

A beautiful mountain lake. We’ve been told you can hike around this one.

Leaving El Cajas

7 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas Clouds

You may notice the American flag air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, but that’s not the point of this photo. Just below that are the yellow lines of the road. On the eastern side of Cajas, it’s common to drive down (or up) through the clouds. A few meters before this picture was taken, we were in bright blue, sunny skies. The fog is often so dense on this part of the drive that you can barely see the yellow lines. It’s quite terrifying!

8 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

A little further down in altitude is a tropical rainforest. This part of the drive lasts about 20 to 30 minutes with lush green foliage and palm trees often blanketed in a shroud of fog.

The Plains to Guayaquil

9 Cuenca to La Entrada Cacao

Once we left the rainforest, we entered the flat plains on the way to Guayaquil. This isn’t a great picture since we were in a rapidly moving buseta (a small passenger bus operated by Operazuaytur), but these are cacao trees (bushes?). Ecuador is known for its amazing, high quality chocolate and most of Ecuador’s cacao is grown in this region and south of here.

Cacao is a very picky plant and will only grow in very specific conditions near the equator making this area perfect for the beans that will become the magic dark brown elixir to the gods.

10 Cuenca to La Entrada Bananas

Ecuador is also a huge exporter of bananas. We used to buy Ecuadorian bananas in Denver. They’re covered with plastic bags to minimize pesticide exposure. Hopefully, they recycle all that plastic.

11 Cuenca to La Entrada Toll Booth

There are several toll booths between El Cajas and Guayaquil. A car costs 25 cents if I remember correctly. Commercial vehicles like the buseta that we were in have different rates, apparently based on the number of people since I heard the driver tell the toll booth attendant how many people were onboard.

Guayaquil, Ecuador

12 Cuenca to La Entrada Guayaquil

A long bridge over Río Guayas delivered us into the heart of Guayaquil, Ecuador, just south of the airport and bus terminal. The busetas are run by a private company with their own drop off location near the airport. When we got off the buseta, a line of taxis were waiting to take people to places unknown.

Our plan was to take a taxi to the bus terminal, which was about a 5 minute drive away. However, the taxi driver asked us where we were going and offered to drive us all the way to Montañita, Ecuador for $80. It took us less than 3 hours in a taxi, but the bus ($7/ticket) takes between 4 and 5 hours. My back was already hurting from the buseta ride, so we decided to take him up on it.

Sadly for him, he got a speeding ticket about halfway there. He was going 9 kilometers over the speed limit (that’s about 5 miles/hour). I’m pretty sure a taxi on the highway with two gringos in it had something to do with that ticket….

13 Cuenca to La Entrada Hand Sculpture

Ecuador has lots of these giant sculptures along the major roads. We’ve noticed more of them in Guayaquil and Quito than in Cuenca, but Cuenca does have a few unique sculptures.

14 Cuenca to La Entrada Street Vendors

Street vendors are also common throughout Ecuador. As soon as the light turns red, people come from out of nowhere selling everything from bottled water and food, to electronics and floor rugs. It’s like IKEA comes to you for 2 minutes, and then disappears into thin air!

Ecuador’s Southern Coast

15 Cuenca to La Entrada Fish Shacks

The first ocean sighting may not look like much, with beachfront shacks galore. But these are actually fishing shacks that are bustling with activity in the mornings. The fishermen go out in their boats at night and return in the morning to sell what they caught.

As vegans, we’re not in support of this activity, but these aren’t giant commercial fishing boats dragging nets behind their boats for miles scraping everything off the seafloor and capturing everything from fish to dolphins, turtles and baby whales. These are tiny fishing boats with one or two guys on them. They’ve been doing this for generations so convincing them to stop won’t be easy. My guess is they’ll be forced to stop in the next 20 years when there are no more fish to be caught and the oceans are dead thanks to the industrial fishing operations.

Please, for your own health and the survival of our oceans, stop buying seafood!

16 Cuenca to La Entrada Oil Dock

This is an oil pipeline dock that goes out into the sea. On the other side of the highway is what appeared to be an oil holding station. It wasn’t a refinery; it only had large storage tanks. I’m guessing they pump the oil from the tanks out to oil tankers.

Before the oil bust, oil was one of Ecuador’s main sources of income. Now they have a more balanced portfolio with food and flower exports, some manufacturing, and tourism.

17 Cuenca to La Entrada Horse Pasture

We saw so many different types of terrain and climates on our short 6 hour ride from Cuenca to La Entrada it was sometimes hard to believe. Close your eyes for 5 minutes in a dessert and you might wake up in a rainforest! This picturesque farm looks like it could be a Kentucky horse ranch. On the other side of the highway from this ranch is the ocean and beaches. What a diverse country!

Villa de Los Sueños, La Entrada, Ecuador

18 Cuenca to La Entrada Villa de Los Sueños 1

The tide was out when we arrived and the rocky oceanfront off the back of Villa de Los Sueños was clearly visible. Most of the beaches in this area are very wide and sandy, but they’re rocky in front of the B&B. It was only a short 2 minute walk south on the beach to get to the sandy shores where you can swim or boogie board. Surfing is popular in Montañita and Olón a little bit south of La Entrada, but the waves weren’t quite big enough on this stretch of beach.

19 Cuenca to La Entrada Villa de Los Sueños 2

We rented the penthouse apartment, mainly for the kitchen so we could cook our vegan fare, but we were really happy with the larger room size, private hot tub and amazing views of the ocean.

The owners are Shell and Marsha. On our first night there, Shell took us into Olón to buy some vegan staples such as fruits, veggies, rice, pasta and hot sauce. We cooked several meals in our room and had romantic dinners with ocean views and sounds. We’ll share more about our amazing, relaxing stay at Villa de Los Sueños in Part 3 of this series.

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed the first part of our trip to Ecuador’s Southern Coast. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video