QuickPeek: Cajas! Great Hike. Rain. Wind.

So today was going to be a hiking day. One of the main reasons to come up to Cuenca was its proximity to the Cajas National Park. I had heard a bit about the place and a little research pointed out that it was a high altitude andean wonderland. at 4000m and an above treeline setting made me want to do a few hikes in this place.

We were up at 6 hoping for an early start, but by the time we got to the bus station and after an hour long bus ride, it was nearly 9:30 when we started walking. There were many trailheads in Cajas, but being here for the first time, we decided to head to the refugio / Park HQ to gather a bit more info before heading out. The refugio was a nice place, well maintained and even had a cafe and a nice bit of shelter.

The morning started well, but the weather seemed to move in and out and it was going to be a drizzly foggy day. The Park HQ had a big map with all the trails mapped in and numbered, otherwise there was very little info. The park rangers (may be guides), were pretty friendly and helpful and offered advice on the different routes and conditions. There were a few tourists there and even a bus load of oldies showed up to hike some of the easy bits. So we decided to try a quiet route (#6). As we were walking up to the trail head, it started to rain a bit and we were advised about the tough conditions.

So I decided to get back to the Refugio and pick up a different trail instead. The one I started with was #1 and it was a picturesque route going thro some high altitude scrub forest and a tussock and bog filled landscape. The trail was well marked and was soft and squishy underfoot. There were muddy bits, but mostly was a really nice trail to hike on.

The views were absolutely stunning even on the overcast dat. High mountains all around and spots of lakes / bogs shimmering below. The creeks that were connecting these lakes made for really pretty views indeed. A couple of times I made wrong turns, but managed to get back to the trail proper easily. After a few hours of walking, I ended up on the highway and decided to search for another trail (#5) which was supposedly tough going. I got to the trailhead, but after 20 mins of walking, the trail got lost in the tussock and I was unable to spot the trail markers. So I decided to turn back and took an easier trail back to the Refugio.

The park seemed very friendly for camping, lots of open spaces to stop at and I suppose the camping charges are reasonable too. The best part was that there was no entrance fee to the park and that was awesome.

I met Krista back at the Refugio and we decided to walk down to the Park entrance about 5 km away. It rained on and off a bit and the wind made the day pretty chilly, but even then I had a stunning day of hiking.

Track Notes

Distance: 18 Km
Road: Trail: Tussock and squishy moss.
Expenses: SG$ 18.29
Comments: Hiking in Cajas, Highly recommended!