June 28, 2011

Siga no mas. Cuenca, Ecuador

Hello everyone!
This is my first post since I have gotten to Ecuador...which was two weeks ago! Ugh! In my defense the house I am living at doesn't have internet so it has been pretty hard for me to get motivated for the 40 minuet walk to my school to use the internet...

For those of you that don't know I am taking an intensive language course in Cuenca, Ecuador at CEDEI, a non-profit English and Spanish school. CEDEI is an absolutely amazing place, with awesome coordinators and teachers. It is a total immersion school so you live with a host family, take 2 to 4 hours of classes a day, have a dance class, cooking class, and different speakers come in to lecture. On top of all those fun things they also set up different excursions for you.

The first excursion we had was to Cajas National Park. It is about 30 to 40 minuets away from Cuenca and it is a must see if you are in the area. Beautiful mountains, lakes, and everything in between. The highest peak gets to be around 14,300 ft, which of course was the start for our 4 hour hike.

Our group at the start of the hike.
Now I didn't find the hike too strenuous, but I think that was because of the adrenaline and because I am in shape. Due to the altitude and the steep climbs you make you definitely might need to take a breather here and there and drink lots of water and chocolate.  

Me at the highest peek in Cajas
After our 4 hour hike we set up camp at one of the most beautiful spots I saw in Cajas. Now for this hike and the camping we had guides that helped us the entire time. Due to the high elevation it gets very, very cold in the night. Many hikers/campers have died in Cajas due to the cold and not being prepared. You definitely need lots of layers, impermeable shoes, rain jacket, and wool socks! For those that are seasoned hikers and campers you would probably be okay without a guide, but Cajas is huge and it is very easy to get lost. I recommend getting a guide, they know where all the cool things are too.

Above is what we woke up to the next morning. Absolutely stunning. We got lucky that it never rained and it was a beautiful day after our night camping. That made it an easy decision to opt for the 2 hour hike to Virgin of Cajas. They call it the Virgin of Cajas because in the late 80s a girl name Patricia claimed the Virgin Mary came to her while she was there. This story has a lot of controversy around it, because a lot of people believe the girl made up the story so she would get in trouble for going with her boyfriend to Cajas to you know...Nevertheless it became this huge ordeal. Every month for a year Patricia would give the messages of the Virgin to thousands of people in Cajas. That meant thousands of people flooded into Cuenca. All the hotels were filled, all the restaurants were always busy, the economy was booming. However, all the people in Cajas basically trashed the place. So the church put an end to it and she hasn't given any messages since. I personally don't believe her, but lots of other people do, including my host family. It was just really interesting to see how important and serious religion is here in Ecuador and South America as a whole. 

Since I have been in Cuenca I have lots of more interesting things about this small town but I will leave that for tomorrow. So until tomorrow.

Hasta manana!


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