This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day Trippin' from Cuenca - Ingapirca and Cajas National Park

Arriving in Cuenca, Mika and I have hit a slight travel wall. We end up staying in the city for two weeks. Cuenca is a very nice city to chill out for a few days. It also makes a nice base for taking two separate relatively easy day trips. Both places are reached directly from Cuenca’s bus terminal which is just a $2 dollar taxi or $0.25 bus ride from the center of town.


Ingapirca is touted as the best ruins in Ecuador and a good day trip from Cuenca. The bus takes three hours one way which ends up being quite a lot of traveling time considering that the ruins are pretty small and touring them can easily take less than an hour. If you do not speak Spanish and skip the guided tour the main area could be covered in about twenty minutes.

The site was first inhabited by the Cañari people who were later ruled by the Incas coming from the south. It is quite interesting that the Inca had empirial aspirations like the Europeans. They conquered and enslaved other indigenous communities well before Cristobal Colon’s accidental discovery. I guess history proves the Incas biggest problem was that the Spanish were much better at tyranny than they were -- that and living with small pox.

In Quichua, Ingapirca means "Inca wall" 
The short guided tour explains aspects of the Cañari people’s life and that of the Inca people. The original temple wall is still standing, but the altar has been reconstructed. There is also a small museum showing artifacts found at the site and a few small trails that lead to some centuries old stone sculptures. I would have liked to go to these sites, but the rain starts so we decide to hop on the earlier bus which means that we sat for over five hours on a bus to be at Ingapirca for less than two.
Ingapirca's next Incan Idol

Cajas National Park

This is a very easy trip from Cuenca. There are many trails in the park for hiking various distances and difficulties. Our bus takes us past the entrance and we get off with a woman that points us to a trailhead. She is waiting for a horse to pick her up to take her to a village while we are supposed to continue on following the trail. The most excellent thing about Cajas is not the nature or endless views. It is the fact that the trail is very well marked with painted rocks. It is the first time in Ecuador that we have been hiking without the very real fear of making wrong choices and getting lost.

The hike is quite nice and four hours is a perfect length for us. But what seems to be the norm of late on all of my hikes is that grey clouds roll in and loom overhead. Mika sees me as some cartoon figure with a rain cloud three feet from my head following me wherever I go. It could be that, or it could be that it is rainy season in Ecuador. Either way the greyness gives the wide expanse of mountain scenery a brownish hue. The tall grass, rocks and even the lakes are brown.

So on this hike we find that the beauty of Cajas lies in the flecks of colors sprouting from the ground in the form of tiny, pea-sized red, yellow and purple flowers and soft green cacti. We break out our cameras and try our best to take Ojii-san photos. Ojii-san means "old man" in Japanese. Let me explain:

In Japan there is an entire subculture of retired businessmen who purchase ridiculously expensive cameras, join photo clubs, shoot pretty straight forward photos of flowers and other forms of nature, then have exhibitions around town so that other retired businessmen and their spouses can look at their pretty straight forward photos of flowers and other forms of nature.

Now any time that I take or see a photo of a flower it is labeled as an Ojii-san photo. During our hike in Cajas Mika and I have a who can take the best Ojii-san photo competition, but having much better equipment and being just a few short decades away from being an Oji-san myself, the odds are heavily stacked in my favor though Mika usually holds her own.


  1. Rain can be a blessing or a curse, can't it?! My partner and I are thinking of hiring ourselves out as rainmakers - wherever we go downunder here in Australia it rains!!

    Hope you're having a great Easter break!

  2. Beautiful blog and fantastic pictures.

  3. Thanks for the compliment. Glad to hear you like the blog.

  4. Red Nomad OZ,
    Thanks for the comment and reading the blog.

    Yes, rain is no fun on picnics nor on hikes to Inca ruins. I hope you and your partner are staying away from Maccu Pichu in the very near future. The last thing I want to see there is rain and fog.