Before plunging into the eerie beauty of Parque Nacional El Cajas just outside of Cuenca, I’ll mention that we’ve moved to new digs: an apartment a bit closer to the Centro Historico (historic center and you’ll remember that Cuenca is a UNESCO world heritage site?). This is a view from the street – not to prepossessing I’ll admit but in the style of Spain inherited from the Moors who exited Spain in 1492.
The moors (Arabs) beat feet out of Spain as Isabela and Ferdinand were funding that slightly misguided world traveler who aimed for the spice lands of India but bumped into the New World several thousand miles before that. The great discoverer found indigenous people who’d beat him here by fifteen thousand years or so.
There’s also a courtyard, another downstairs aparment with Jim from the US and the owner’s house – took a tour today and it’s quite beautiful and modern inside. The building is 2 years old and the approval process took an additional two years.
Well, I digress and various souls have asked for more pictures and presumably less written matter. I’ll take that as encouragement that my pictures are even more beautiful than my words.
More pictures of the apartment here (Check the rooftop panorama for why we moved!)
Parque Nacional El Cajas
Starting at the lake Lluviuca, El Cajas lies about 30 miles west of Cuenca and starts at about 10k feet.
We walked around Lluviuca’s nicely laid out trail, over boardwalk and past the old prohibition era German or Austrian brewery and saw just about nothing in the animal kingdom although our guide said it was a good bird watching site and so indicated the signs along the path. We got there a tad late – maybe 930am, so maybe the birds were on siesta.
Please don’t ask me what these flowers are called
Yellow, orange, purple
Gorgeous upright 16″ lavender color
Gaping like a snapdragon
Did see a couple nice flowers and the lower dwelling polylepsis trees. At this altitude there are other trees and shrubs as well as the tracks of an “Andean Wolf” which is more fox than wolf.
To our eyes these plants appear normal, temperate forest things even if you haven’t seen one just like them before. That changes, however.
More interesting after an hour and a half around Lluviuca (pron. Yoo-vee-YOO-ca) were the upper moorlands, above all the trees except the native Polylepsis, highest growing trees in the world we were told.
At 3979 meters and another 45 minutes up the mountain roadway plants become much different – stunted, closed in, spikey, smaller but nonetheless very beautiful. One of the striking things is the great similarity in leave structure, shape and coloration at this altitude. The overall impression (and temperature) is of coldness, sparseness of plants although the ground is covered with. Lots more birds, too though a bit wary for yours truly to take pictures. Well, here’s one…
And a bird called Chlorides…
The landscape at nearly 14,000 feet below at Laguna Toreadora
The upper of 3 lakes: Toreadora
Flowers that never open. How do they pollinate, I wonder?
Wicked spiny yucca-like plant 6′
Low lying blue beauties
And the nicely named “Finger of God”
Walking down the ancient inca trail past lakes…
Past lichen, fungus and goodness knows what-all
And grey lichen…
And wild llamas munching on the groundcover…
And back to the van where we proceded to the trout farm for lunch. En route we passed the president of Ecuador Correa’s party of a couple dozen jeeps, dozens or more policia and assorted hangers on. Luckily for us, el presidente didn’t eat at the same time as our lunch was scheduled. Must say that the trout from the farm were absolutely deliscious – ours steamed with a nice canelazo (cinnamon and aguardiente served hot) topped the day off.
Up next – Carnaval…
BTW – here’s a link to Flickr pix of El Cajas (those above and others)