Jan 31

I came down from the mountain last night and plan to move on with my travels today! I think since I never saw actual Podocarpus I will go into the park today at the Zamora entrance today and camp for a day or 2. After that Ill finally get on my way to Peru! 

Sacred Sueños week 1

So ive been at sacred suenos for 1 week now and it has been pretty cool! Ive done a bunch of earth bagging (moving dirt, pouring into long bags, and pounding down), rock moving, contour ditch digging, and fern pulling, tree cutting. The people here are really chill and very welcoming. Though Ive been doing lots of physical work, this is the nicest and most relaxing break Ive had in years! I wake up to the view of the valley and mountains every morning, and watch a stunning sunset almost every night. If you wana know more about sacred suenos look it up online, I haven’t but I hear the website is great. 

I might be down during the week but if not I’ll update next sunday!

Also happy birthday will! (My brother)

Jan 17

Jan 17I woke up suuuper late today, woops. But I came back to Pura Vida to meet Louisa and we are going to go up into the mountains this evening. Ill probably stay the whole week, and I’m not sure what Ill be doing but I’ll find out soon enough!  

Jan 16

Jan 16So I woke up late again, woops. I got breakfast and juice at this crepe place and then got a taxi to the closest entrance to Podocarpus. The Germans recoommended not to do this hike on foot (as opposed to horses), but whatever, I need exercise anyway, and I wont carry my backpack because Im just going to go for the day and be back in town tonight. 

The hike was awesome! I went up and down a couple valleys, walked up a few rivers, and saw a bunch of new birds. But the coolest part was when I was on my way back and I heard a few hummingbirds chattering. I stopped for a minute and looked up a hill and noticed there were at least 20 hummingbirds (mainly of one species but I saw a few different ones) flying around chasing each other and feeding on the plants that covered the hill. I stopped and watched them for about an hour and got a few good pictures of one of the less common species (he was much less spazzy than the others and was feeding on just one small group of plants. 

I got back by 7ish and went back to Pura Vida for dinner and drinks, and then out with the whole Pura Vida crowd to some clubish bar. 

I unfortunately lost one of my water bottles (the good one) at that bar/club after a woman I met put it in her bag to keep behind the bar. I have no idea how but when we left it wasn’t in her bag. I was pretty bummed about it until this guy that works at Pura Vida came in just now with it strapped to his backpack! Apparently the woman drunkenly put it in his bag instead of her own haha.

Jan 15

Jan 15 I got a late start today leaving cuenca for Loja. I was planning on leaving early so I could get to Loja by afternoon and get to Podocarpus by the time they closed (I feel like it might be difficult to get into the park after dark). But I was kinda slacking this morning, taking a while to pack up and get food at the grocery store, and then I waited like a half hour for an egg sandwich which confirmed that I would miss my bus. But I checked out finally and got to the bus station and got on another bus after waiting for an hour or so (they go every half hour except for 1130-1). The bus ride was fine but I couldn’t sleep because of the movies, which I tried to follow along in Spanish (at least this time they were real movies that were just dubbed over, not weird Spanish soap opera type movies which they’ve shown in the past). 

I got to Loja and I just did not feel like staying the night there in another city, so I hopped on a bus to Vilcabamba, a town which is supposedly known for its super long lived old people and hippie atmosphere (I haven’t seen too many old people yet, but it does seem pretty chill.) I went to this random restaurant/ bar called Pura Vidarun by a bunch of foreigners (Sermans, Sweedish, American, plus a few Ecuadorians). I ordered the pulled pork sandwich (which im pretty sure was microwaved chicken and definitely not pulled), but I didn’t care, it was good (plus it came with pickles!). After dinner I chilled at the bar and talked to the germans for a couple hours. They are super interesting and Lunz even invited me to come work at their homestead like place for the week. Since I really have no set schedule I think I will take him up on that offer, why not! I hope to get a sense of how expat living in the mountains outside a small chill ecuadorian town is. Who knows, Maybe if I like it I’ll end up doing something similar wayyy down the road.

So I’ll probably push off Peru got a week or do more in Ecuador, but I’ll get down to the Huaraz soon enough!

Jan 13

Today was a long day. 

After a cold night of waking up pretty frequently (I think because I went to sleep so early) I woke up at 630, packed up and left the cave (which I realized would have been sick to climb if I were much much better) by 730. I then walked for 10 hours straight (okay, I took a half hour break to refill water but thats not included in the 10 hours). I walked so much I don’t even really remember specifics besides that all the views were obviously awesome! At one point I read the map wrong again (more like I just didnt read it) and had to climb a fairly large incline but I got up it easily (I had just taken my break). After the pass, I hiked down through the forested valley to get out of the park. I stopped very frequently to spot some birds, but never saw the swordbill. It started pouring about half way down so I eventually got pretty drenched (mainly my legs). The really ‘interesting’ part came when I got all the way down the hill. I could see the lake that was supposed to be the edge of the park, but a barbed wire fence impeded my progress. I walked around a bit but a river stopped me as the crossings (all of them) were wayy to deep. So I hopped the fence (which I thought was the edge of private property) and continued on the trail. Of course I didn’t have that portion of the map (lesson 2 in map reading… Have the damn map!). For some reason I was trying to avoid some buildings to my right (where the trail led) so I walked across the marsh which was pretty much completely flooded up to my knees to get to this path that I could see from across the marsh that I convinced myself was the right trail. Once I got to that path, it dawned on me that the original trail went straight through the buildings! I was there anyway so I walked all the way around the lake through more forest and eventually got to those buildings, sharply turned around on a dirt road and walked out to a parking and reception area. Then I decided to walk straight by that reception hut (where I could have gotten them to call me a taxi) and walked 2ish miles on this super annoying cobble stone road up to the main road. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to hop on a bus or hail a passing cab, yeah right! Only one bus passed (the driver of which I later gave a mean glare as I sped passed it). After 20 minutes of walking down the long road to quenca (which I estimated might have taken another 5-6 hours), I hitch-hiked for the first time and it was a total success! Also it was quite fun riding in the back of a pickup, though the driver almost killed us several times trying to pass slow moving cars/ trucks. I survived though and finally made it back to the hostel, which was full! But I got a room at the one across the street, and then went to the columbian place down the block for some food finally and then a pizza place because I was still hungry (I ate some granola and freezedried ice cream the whole day). 

   
   

Jan 12

So instead of waking up at 4 or 5 to stargaze, I accidentally woke up at 10 cuz it was so warm and nice in my tent (though I did get up at 430 and looked outside but all I could see was fog.) Of course sleeping 15 hours left me groggy and sluggish, so I started clombing at around 11. I first found a pretty easy but fun rock and climbed 2 different routes on it. Then I went back to the rock that originally caught my attention and climbed it again. Right across from that rock was this other challenging slab with a bunch of tiny 1 or 2 finger holes and 2 huge ones at the bottom. I spent the rest if the morning untill 1 on the rock trying to figure it out and slowly getting up there until I was to tired to hold onto one super important move. One more try and my shoulder half popped out so I called it quits. I packed up and started what I thought would be a mostly down hill hike, but boy was I wrong. My first lesson learned in map reading for mountaineering… Dont just say “eh, doesnt look to steep” without looking at it twice. I made it up eventually though and the view from the other side of the ridge was well worth the struggle. I hiked around on the side of a mountain looking down on a few shimmering lakes wayy below and when I made it around, I decided to ditch my backpack and climb to the top of a peak about 200 m up from where I was. Right when I found a good spot to hide my bag from the rain (and the nonexistent other hikers), it started hailing! They weren’t to big but they were coming down hard and cold. I tried to wait it out under the rock with my bag for 20 minutes thinking it might just end up drizzling and I could go hike to the peak, but I was wrong so I threw on my poncho for the first time and started down the mountain towards some other lakes which I would cut around to meet another trail down the hill. The storm kept pelting me which I could deal with but then the lightning started and I was still pretty high up, wet, and out in the open (and I realized I wasn’t too sure what to do in that situation). So I got a biit sketched out, especially when I saw 2 bolts strike nearby peaks. I just kept walking down cuz there wasnt much else to do, and then I was stumbled upon this sick cave which I decided to make dinner in and since my mess kit was in the bottom of my pack, to make camp for the night. So I didn’t get as much distance in today as I hoped, but I won’t climb in the morning and I’ll get up around 6 and start hiking early to make up the distance. Hopefully by 3 or 4 I’ll make it down to a more forestry area (up here its all boggy) to try to see the sword billed hummingbird and catch a bus back to cuenca, but if not I’ll camp in that lower area and get back to Cuenca early Thursday. 

Some pictures:(my phone ran out of memory so I was using my other camera for most of the day, so I can’t upload those until i get to a computer, which wont be for a couple months haha. 

   
 
^idk if you can see the hail but it was there haha

  

Jan 11

Jan 11

I woke up around 8 this morning to a loud sneeze (i don’t think it was mine, but it totally could have been in my dream which I was clarifying to someone what the shannon diversity index was used for (lol gotta love those bio dreams)). I got out of my tent and was putting on my shoes when a hummingbird (I think and ecuadorian hillstar?) which I had saw on a poster and thought looked sick, darted by and perched on a rock not 10 feet away. I tried to get a picture but he was to quick. I climbed the rock until about 12, slowly progressing up to this large slopey triangle indent. When I finally reached it, I decided not to go further with no ropes and not even a crashpad because when my leg started shaking after I got my foot into this sketchy crack that if I had stood up on I probably would have sent it. I was pretty pissed but satisfied cuz reaching the triangle was my original realistic goal. 

I packed up and started a hike to meet up with another trail that will take me through the middle part of the park. At the bottom of the valley, I said hi to a herd of 10 (wild?- no brands) horses, which from the top of the hill I thought were cows because of their patterns). They were all suuper pretty and pretty nice- I got within 5 feet of 2 and only when I stepped on a stick accidentally did they get a bit defensive. I also stumbled upon a bull which was clearly more pissed off as he kept watching me and grunting. 

After deciding to cut my original plan off and go around the other side of a lake, I found myself on a suuuuper sketchy path that was at points inches from the water. The path went all the way around to the waterfall I was aiming for (thats where I would meet up with the next route. I climbed straight up the long waterfall/stream because why not, and once at the top I found the trail and walked around yet another lake. At the other side, before climbing up another waterfall/ stream thing, I napped for a bit because the sun came out and was super nice. Once I made it up the second stream, you guessed it, another lake! On the north side of the lake there were a ton of great looking boulders/ faces and I couldnt resist checking them out (the trail went to the south ofvthe lake). I found a bunch of really cool looking routes on a few different rocks and climbed one tonight before I made camp and food (this time freeze dried rice and chicken and icecream-thanks again mom!). Im super tired so Im going to pass out early again and hopefully wake up by 4 or 5 to see some stars and the sunrise (well see if that actually happens). Whatever time I get up I’ll definitely climb for a few hours and then make my way down the trail as far as I can before nightfall. 

Some pictures:  

  

   
  

    
    
 

Jan 10

I made it to Cajas today, after a cheap 2 dollar bus ride. I stopped at a lower station to get situated with the trails and plan my trek. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a map to take but I just took some pictures of the big one in the interpretation center. After I spent a while planning where I would go, I tried to start out, but was quickly stopped by a ranger before I even got to the trail because only 100 people were allowed at that lake per day. I said okay, whatever, theres like 250 something more lakes! So I started my journey up the road a couple miles to get to the trail that I wanted to take the first one to. I made it up to Tres Cruses and soon after found the trailhead. I hiked down from about 4000 m to 3800 m along a few amazing lakes and absolutely stunning mountains (a constant theme of Cajas). At about 5 I looked up and saw this awesome rock face about 15 m high with some diagonal cracks and knew I had to climb it. All the cracks had a bunch of mosses and plants growing in them but I cleaned some off and figured out the base pretty quick after. It was getting a bit dark so I found spot at the bottom of the rock to make camp, made some freeze dried chili mac with beef (thanks mom) and passed out by 7. It wasnt a very cold night once I was snug in my warm sleeping bag (again, thanks mom!) At 2 am or so I woke up and looked outside, and the stars were stunning. I could see the whole milky way super clearly and if I wasn’t super tired and cold I would have stayed out to find some constellations and galaxies, maybe even catch a few shooting stars from the tail end of the quadratid meteor shower. But I didn’t, so I’ll try tonight.
Some pictures from the day: