|The Park is in south Ecuador, not far from Cuenca.|
|I got a kick out of this sign at the beginning of the trail.|
I had also been warned by a couple from Indiana that I had best do the Laguna Toreadora Trail first before trying anything more difficult. And then the lady looked at the sandals I was wearing and said, "And I hope you have better footwear than that!"
However, I didn't want to go all the way to Cajas and only do the easy hike. And I'm really glad I didn't, because although Laguna Toreador is beautiful, you're never away from the highway sounds, or the sight of the registration office. And it's only about a 2-hour hike. Might be okay for "walkers," but not for a hiker. That's why I didn't opt for a tour, because they all just did the easy hike, and they cost $50 (and mine cost $2 for transport!).
|The start of the hike with Laguna Toreadora down below|
So I started out at 8:30, with nary another hiker in sight, and set off around the Laguna. The flowers amazed me, flowers like this at close to 4000 meters?! The trail, contrary to some reports, was easy to follow, and where there weren't signs or paint blazes, I could usually easy see the route, even when it crossed rocks.
Some of the beautiful flowers along the hike:
The sign at the junction.
Then I entered the magical quinoa or "paper tree" forest. It is similar to arbutus, though, with it's peeling bark, so not as magical as it might have been.
|In the quinoa forest|
|There was yucca along much of the route, albeit not blooming|
Shortly after that, I stopped for a snack, and the large group descended the hill above me, but veered off before reaching me.
|Some of the UVic students with one of the guides.|
I envied their tiny daypacks, wondering who was wiser, me, with enough gear to weather a blizzard, or them. They turned off to the right, but their was a blaze on a rock in front of me so I reasoned they must be taking a different route.
|Informative signage detailing distance/time, and elevation gain/lost between points. |
Originally they had 29 of these signs over a 5 k. distance, but seems like about 1/2
|And where there weren't signs, rocks were painted.|
|The other group passed me about here.|
Then the scenery became spectacular as I neared Laguna Patoquinuas. About then, the large group passed me and as they went by I said to one, "De donde eres?" "Canada," he replied. I was so surprised, I lost my Spanish. Turns out, they are UVic students, and are in Cuenca for a term abroad. Lucky kids! We chatted a bit, before they continued on, moving faster than I.
|The UVic students and their guides passed me about here.|
|The view from near the end of the hike.|
When I reached the end of the hike at the highway, I asked the Guide if a bus would stop there, and he said yes, but said I could catch a ride back to Cuenca in their tourist van. So, I travelled back to the city in style!