Domes of the New Cathedral @ Centro Histórico Cuenca, Ecuador
Suffering from a serious case of Post-Galapagos Depression (PHD) we landed in Guayaquil and made our way back to our nice air BnB apartment that had kindly held on to one of our big backpacks and of course the ludicrous box we were still carrying around from Otavalo market. We didn’t do anything interesting in Guayaquil, just spent the night before getting the bus the next day to Cuenca. Is anything really worth seeing anymore if there aren’t sea lions everywhere?
The bus to Cuenca took about four hours through beautiful scenery. We made our way to an air BnB that Rach and Ad had recommended to stay with an American expat called Gary. Gary lived in a very big house and was super chilled, really friendly and had tried really hard to integrate into the local community. He had been living in Ecuador for years, loved jazz but most of all he was passionate about Cuenca.
Cathedral @ Centro Histórico, Cuenca, Ecuador
That afternoon we went for a stroll around town that was not that interesting (don’t tell Gary). Lots of beautiful buildings but nothing super special (PHD still in full flow). After a great nights sleep we decided to have a chilled day as we were so exhausted from our non stop three weeks previous in the Galapagos. We walked around the town centre for a couple of hours and caught up on a bit of life admin.
Iglesia San Francisco Steeple @ Centro Histórico, Cuenca, Ecuador
The next day we went to Parque Nacional de Cajas. From Cuenca, the bus took about an hour, our journey went upwards so it got really cold, really fast! We arrived at the beautiful park to a bit of a misty day. We chose a four-five hour hike depending on whether we did the extension which we didn’t plan on doing because we needed to get back to sort money out and get to an exchange house before heading to Peru.
The Creepy Forest @ Parque Nacional de Caja, Ecuador
Swamps and Tussocks @ Parque Nacional de Caja, Ecuador
We set off on Ruta 1. The scenery was dramatic hills, lakes and swamps, grassy tussocks and a few llamas. We were following the Ruta 1 pink signs carefully (or so we thought), we managed to do the hike backward with the extended part (and another extra extended part because everything is so poorly marked) and somehow got back to the start in three hours. The markings were regular but it was just never clear where you were or how far along you were on the trail. Each sign looked the same but told you you were at a certain point out of 25 (the hike we later realised went to 29) but at no point did it show you where the points were on the map. Once we realised we had done the extended version we assumed we had another three hours left, but we were back at the start within an hour. The scenery was absolutely stunning and it would have been even better with some sun but we were a bit disappointed after thinking we had quite a bit more left then we just turned up back at the start!
Suddenly At The End @ Parque Nacional de Caja, Ecuador
Luckily though this meant that we had time to sort out our money problems. At the start of the year we transferred some money to the UK and some money to AU but that has since been spent (shocker!). Earning and having money in NZ and wanting to spend in AU or GBP has been a total nightmare. Exchange values have been affected for the whole year by Brexit and Trump. We stood to lose hundreds of dollars just to transfer from one currency to another all because of stupid anti-immigration Britons and Trump waging war on China! If Brexit hadn’t have happened we would literally be thousands of pounds richer. Basically, our money is in the wrong currency and in a country (NZ) that doesn’t provide good fee free/low fee spending abroad but the currency and place where we can use our fee free credit cards (UK and AU) costs us so much to move the money into! It’s basically a financial nightmare, but I guess it’s the sacrifice and risk I have chosen to live and work in different countries!
Llama Me Baby @ Parque Nacional de Caja, Ecuador
So after our hike that finished surprisingly and a bit disappointingly early, we took out all the cash from our NZ cash passport as withdrawals at a specific bank in Ecuador (Pichincha) which are free and found an exchange house and traded in some USD for Peruvian Soles ready for tonight. We then planned to exchange the rest of the USD in Peru. Even if we did lose out on the exchange rate in Peru, we would lose more by spending in Soles or the stupid expensive cash passport. New Zealand really needs to up its game on spending abroad its ridiculous.
Feeling like we had achieved something, we headed back to Gary’s to shower, re-pack and head off to get our night bus. We hung out with Gary and this crazy old American couple until our night bus. Our night bus included a middle of the night border crossing which I was not too chuffed about as border crossings are so unpredictable. Apparently though this crossing was pretty straightforward and safe and also this seemed like our only option. We were hurrying down to Peru a bit because we were planning to meet back up with Rach and Ad and maybe even Bec and Kiwi Adam to get the whole Boobies gang together again.
Jess Among The Tussocks @ Parque Nacional de Caja, Ecuador
The border crossing at 2am was surprisingly smooth. The exit Ecuador and enter Perú desks were in the same room and there were not too many people which made things a lot easier. There were a lot of people at the border just not in the same queue as us. The border was full of Venezuelans trying to cross into Perú. It wasn’t really clear why they were sleeping there but at the very least they had free toilets, water and blankets. One guy had even strung up a hammock between two concrete pillars and was fast asleep in it when we walked past. I later found out they could be waiting there for days and even weeks waiting for papers and clearance. Every border has been full of Venezuelans trying to flee their terrible situation in hopes for a better life. Families with four or five children all being forced to wait for hours and even days to get through the border. I get the feeling that they are never really well received into any South American country. We are always in a queue with locals from the country we are crossing out of and I’ve overheard a few “less than warm” things said about the situation. I watched a news story about Venezuelans facing a lot racism and discrimination in Perú as many Peruvians appear to be losing their jobs for cheaper Venezuelan labour. The classic “they took our jobs!” situation. The Government should stop Peruvians losing their jobs and everyone just need to remember why the Venezuelans are here. It’s not necessarily a choice, they are fleeing extreme poverty and political danger. However this is all well coming from a person lucky enough to be brought up in a first world country. The Venezuelans are fleeing a dire situation from a third world country to another third world country that still has corruption and poverty.
We were travelling all the way down to a town called Chiclayo where we would have to work out how we would continue down to Trujillo and eventually Huanchaco to meet the gang. Hoping to get over our PHD but first, some long buses ahead.
Rogue @ Parque Nacional de Caja, Ecuador