One of my favorite parts of living in Cuenca is the beautiful mountains that surround the city. What is even better though is the ability to go visit them! El Cajas is a national park filled with magnificent scenery. I never knew that trees could twist and turn in so many directions; I honestly felt like I was in a Sci-Fi movie set with the trees. There are so many lakes and mountains that my eyes were stunned at the beauty that surrounded.
Camping in El Cajas is absolutely amazing. I camped with some students from CEDEI and we got a guide. We slept right beside an amazing lake–what a view to wake up to. When we went, there was a very strong rain storm but this did not take away from the experience; however, it was a reminder that it is necessary to be prepared. Card games and long talks filled our tents to rain as our soundtrack. When the weather calmed down, we all gathered around the “kitchen” tent and shared yummy food: mac n’ cheese, soup and, most importantly, warm tea. No one had phone service and we all were sharing our most awkward stories. Not only was it a time to connect with nature, but it was a time to connect with my fellow study abroad students. Being unplugged isn’t just about not checking your facebook, instagram, messaging friends from back home and other social media, it is about truly connecting with the location and people you are with. Cajas National Park is the ultimate place to unplug close to Cuenca, and for this, I took many more trips to these beautiful mountains!
I honestly do not consider myself a hiker, but with scenery as beautiful as Cajas all you want to do is keep exploring, keep hiking. After a few trips to Cajas, my friends and I kept eyeing this one peak. We knew from the top we would receive a 360 degree view of the mountain ranges. We decided to venture to this location on this particular day; we began hiking, but little did we know that we were about to embark on a journey to the unknown. About an hour into the hike, we were lost. Yes we were still on a trail, but it without a doubt was not the correct one! We were not going up the mountain! We had to backtrack quite a bit, and still we could not find a marked trail. After looking around for sometime, we finally found it and started making our way to the top! The altitude was making my lungs full-heartily hate me, but my eyes were in-love with everything I was seeing. There are no words that can describe what it was like to reach the summit of this mountain. The sense of accomplishment was only reenforced by the beauty which I received as nature’s applause for making it to the top.
This is only one of the mountains that Ecuador has to offer! There are many more to climb as well as many more sites to see!