Hiking in the Andes yesterday was a refreshing and beautiful experience! We were at an altitude of over 3,000 meters (10,000 ft.) and sometimes the climbing was slow. The trails were rocky and muddy and difficult to maneuver but the effort was well worth it. We wore gumboots which were essential to climbing through patches of almost knee-deep mud.
I went with a tour group called Arutam Ecotours and the guides were a German intern, Denise, and Xavier Cardenas, co-owner of the company. The hike was along a mountain stream and several small waterfalls to a beautiful lagoon where we had lunch on a hillside above the water – it was spectacular! Unfortunately we didn’t see many birds – only a few at the end of the hike. The bird who visited briefly had a sweet song and a little stripe down its head.
Terrain in the high Central Andes is decidedly different from lower altitudes. It wasn’t cold and did rain but only briefly. As the day progressed we got some low-hanging fog that was beautiful floating in between the peaks.
Rabbits are the main inhabitants of the area where we hiked but we didn’t see any. On our way back to Cuenca we stopped in the small town of Chordeleg which is famous for its traditionally made gold and silver filigree jewelry. It’s a beautiful little town about a 40 minute drive from Cuenca with the Andes as a backdrop. We wandered around looking at the jewelry and stopped for tea.
Our final stop was at an Orquideario called Ecuagenera, where we saw the most gorgeous and unusual species of orchids imaginable! They make hybrid orchids and ship them all over the world. Their plants are exquisite and the delicate floral scent inside the greenhouse was fantastic. Tomorrow I’m looking forward to a day of hiking at Cajas National Park.