It’s never too late to make a second impression.
Parque Nacional Cajas
We drove through Parque Nacional Cajas in route to Cuenca. One of the more interesting drives we’ve yet trekked. Topped 15,000 feet at one point. Nearly drove off a cliff at another. It felt like driving on another planet — though that may have been an altitude high. Jagged peaks jut from desolate plains. It was eerily beautiful.
We camped in a cabina near one of the many creeks spiderveining the Parque. Warmed ourselves by its fire. Fell asleep to a soothing symphony of wood crackling, owls hooting, and creeks babbling. Woke to Spanish Peppa Pig (the cabina had an old- school tube telly).
Cuenca is seemingly on every “Move Here If You’re Tired Of The US” list. We’d read half a dozen articles on it before arriving. Also seemingly everyone we’ve met who’d ever been to Ecuador had espoused Cuenca’s virtues. You’ll wanna move there, they said. We considered arranging school there for the kids.
Our first lap around town was pleasant. For certain. Though familiar. It looked like most of the colonial cities we’ve ventured through: some cobblestone streets, oldish gothic buildings, and various churches surrounded by various plazas. The Spanish had a system — and a style. We made a second lap. Found an incredible empanada joint. Ate them out of empanadas. Then we returned to our campground, debating if we’d seen enough of Cuenca and colonial cities for the rest of this trip.
Monkeys On The Road
Then we drove thirty or so minutes out of town to crash (they invited us, I swear!) at the rental casa of a fellow traveling family that we had exchanged messages and emails with for over a year but had never met on the road, Mary, John, and Lilly, aka, The Monkeys On The Road (monkeysontheroad.com). We swapped road war stories while absorbing the panoramic vistas from their rental house. It was incredible and inspiring listening to their passion for climbing (among other things). Made Andrea and I think that we should pick up some new hobbies….
We returned to Cuenca a few days later to fix a few things on the van and replace our house batteries, which had gone sour in Colombia. Had to leave the van in the shop for a couple days, so we rented a random hotel in a random location.
Then we took another lap. Discovered a brewery simply named Pub. Simple does not, however, describe the complexities the former banker and microbiologist American expat founders use to create their cervezas. They make their own yeast cultures. I’ve never heard of a brewery, at least not a brewery this size, doing this (most buy). It’s awesome. And the results were amazing. Best beers we’ve had on this trip.
The next day we took yet another lap. Discovered a beautiful park. Ambled along the river. Ate breakfast at a delicious cafe. Listened to an army band play in a plaza. Started having the conversation: Can we live here? Definitely. Cool cool city. I’m sure we would’ve discovered even more of its charm had we taken a few more laps.