Because Cuenca is located in a basin and the mountains surround us on all sides—north, east, south, and west—we certainly don’t feel their immensity until we start “climbing.”
I’m often tempted to refer to them as “those hills over yonder” because we’re located at about 8,600 feet (mas/menos depending if you live in a penthouse or not!). You almost start to take them for granted. That is until you start going on some day trips. Only then do you realize you're actually being transported to another world.
There are signs posted throughout the park alerting you to the dangers of altitude sickness and to take it slowly, but some folks have not heeded those warnings and have ended up not feeling so well or worse yet; they have ended up in the hospital. Actually, altitude sickness has nothing to do with “being in shape”; it’s a pre-genetic disposition.
Thankfully, Mark and I fall into the category where the altitude doesn’t affect us that much. We drink mate de coca tea, drink plenty of fluids and take rest steps as we walk.
The weather in the Cajas can change drastically (typical of cloud forests), so it’s important to wear warm waterproof clothing in layers, sun block, bring a thermos of water, rich calorie food like chocolate, binoculars (for bird watching), a compass, and comfortable waterproof shoes. If you plan to spend the night in the park (there are designated areas for camping) and you will need to bring a cook stove as fires are not permitted in the park.
Toreadora and Lake Llaviucu and your group consists of eight persons or more, you must hire a naturalistic guide qualified by the CNP (Cajas National Park). If you’re traveling in a group of seven or less, you must notify the park ranger regarding the route you are taking and have a compass or GPS, and a CNP map.
There are also overnight accommodations at Lake Llaviucu which can be arranged in advance at the cost of $2.00 for Ecuadorian citizens and $4.00 for non-residents. There is a charming lodge that is privately owned in accordance with CNP regulations, but reservations must be made in advance by e-mailing: email@example.com.
The best time of the year to visit the “El Cajas” is during the months of July through January, although the park is open year round.
We’re thankful for this beautiful treasure in our “backyard” and for the ability to visit often—Cajas here we come!
Until next time...hasta luego!
Connie and Mark
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