This weekend we got out of downtown Cuenca and explored a bit. We’ve been trying to involve the kids more in planning and this weekend was a test! We had them choose between 2 day trips on Saturday, and Jack researched activities on the internet for Sunday.
Choosing between a long car ride + short tourist train or shorter drive and walking in a national park, they both agreed (?!) the outdoors (and shorter) trip was going to be best. Steve and I think they made the right call. 🙂 So on Saturday we took a half- day tour of Cajas National park, about 45 minutes outside Cuenca, and much higher! It’s almost 13k feet where the main parking lot is located. For this trip we used a tour operator, as regular buses don’t go back from the park to the city (and the Internet guidance was paths in the park weren’t particularly well marked or easy to explore on your own). We are so glad we did! Our guide was wonderful and knew a ton about the area, especially the plants. We learned that an old Inca road went through the park that was used for centuries. In the 1700-1800s rich Cuenca residents had goods shipped from Europe and carried over the narrow mountain passes from Guayaquil!
We went on about a 90 minute walk around the main area and then a 20 minute one at a lower elevation. We must have adjusted to the Andes as we all handled the altitude ok. Nate was a trooper, he’d had a bit of a stomach ache since wake up but made it ok. (He was fine by afternoon).
On Sunday Jack did some of his own research and learned of a local zoo of rescued animals. Off we went! I didn’t have high expectations as it didn’t make my guidebook and I’m a bit leery of non-major zoos. However I was pleasantly surprised! The bioparque zoológico Amaru is built into the side of a mountain on the outskirts of the city. Upon arrival the ticket seller gave us some instructions/warning, hand written in English. It spoke of a 2km walk, which sounded like no big deal but it was more of a hike! The one way path was quite narrow (in many places) and made of uneven dirt. Though panting in a few places (maybe not entirely used to altitude or maybe just not in great shape – or both!) it was a lot of fun. Though I kept thinking it must be terrifying in the rain…
It was a bit of an eclectic set of animals, mainly indigenous to the area, but also included 8 lions rescued from circuses. Jack is making a video of the zoo so I will leave it to that to explain more, especially about our close-encounter with some intelligent wildlife.
One thing that was very evident was the zoo’s desire to educate about protecting the environment and that keeping wild animals as pets is terrible. There were multiple signs and a pretty explicit display with dead (real i think?!?) wild animals in tiny cages.
A review from Nate of Cuenca and from Steve of Spanish school are on the way!