Cuenca (Again)

Last Thursday we left the beach to return to Cuenca. If you don’t remember, Cuenca is the town we brought the stool samples to after Liza got bit by Sambo. Last time we were here there were a lot of things that we wanted to do, but never did because we were still recovering from our monkey bites. We had to come back because Cuenca is the most beautiful city in Ecuador and we wanted to see those sites we missed last time.

Saturday we saw Pumapungo, an ancient enclosed town from before the Inca. When the Inca did come they celebrated the culture that was smart enough to build this town and settled there. An Incan Emperor’s son was born there, adding to its importance. It had a lot of temples and structures, but was mysteriously destroyed before the Spanish got there. Though, in all fairness, destroying that city probably would have been the first thing the Spanish did anyways.

Sunday we visited these two markets in nearby towns. The guide book made it sound like they had a ton of hand made crafts, but all of the vendors in both towns were selling the exact same things (cheap pan flutes, bags with pot leaves on them, and the same hammocks) so it was a bit of a disappointment.

Monday has really been the highlight so far. We visited Cajas National Park. At first it seemed like it would be a bit uneventful because we got there at the same time as like 15 other Gringos and the lady told us all to do the pink path. Neither Liza nor I wanted to be clumped with the others so Liza pointed at a mountain and asked if I wanted to climb that instead of following the path. I said okay and we headed towards the mountain. We agreed that if at any point it got too dangerous we’d turn back because we didn’t have equipment or experience, and I’m scared of heights. When we got to the base we saw that there was a path so we decided to take it. With the altitude, Liza was out of breath really quickly so we had to take a couple breaks. I’ve been running every day so I’m a bit more accustomed to the altitude (8,000 feet compared to Denver’s 5,000 feet). The path seemed very easy until we were maybe 50 feet from the top. Then the path became much more vertical, loose rocks replaced the dirt, and the plants that we were using as handles disappeared, but it wasn’t terrible so we kept going. Finally the top was within reach when we made it to a mud slide with nothing to hold and no way to get up. Actually we probably could have made it, but Liza’s legs were exhausted and I’m scared of heights so the super long drop if I slipped discouraged me. Then while we were heading down we saw a spot where the path split and we thought maybe that would be an easier route to the top. We followed that path, but it lead to a 15 foot smooth vertical rock. We decided that without equipment and with how slick that other path was it was not happening today so we climbed back down. When we were about half way down we found a nice place to sit and eat sandwiches. Then we climbed down and did half of the Pink Trail and called it a day. The whole time we were on the Pink Trail we talked about how easy it would have been to make it to the top, but its easier said than done when you aren’t looking at a super long drop. The Pink Path was easier and very scenic so I’m glad we did at least part of it. By the end, though, Liza could barely walk. 

Tomorrow we’re going to see Ingapirca, more Incan ruins, then Thursday I’m doing my run!

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