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Another Adventure

Magical Forests and Underground Rivers

ECUADOR | Friday, 10 January 2014 | Views [343]

At 7:45 this morning, we loaded the bus for Cajas National Park. I heard that this trip would be exciting and “magical” but I wasn’t sure how magical it would be for me. I love hiking, but wearing rubber boots and three layers at 12,000 feet didn’t sound all that appealing.

We were making our ascent to Cajas and I could already feel the elevation (or maybe the carsickness?) I was not all that excited. We soon pulled up to our first location. This, they said, was a test route to see how well we could do with the elevation. The second we set foot on that trail into the woods of Ecuador, all my fears disappeared. Never before had a seen landscape so beautiful! The paths were well made, there were many birds for us to watch, and our tour guide was excellent. It’s so much more interesting when you know what you’re walking through. We even go to off-road it for a bit when we found out a good chunk of the trail was blocked by a big tree. All that I could hear the whole time we were going through this unmarked territory was my mother saying in my ear, “Don’t go into the woods! Take bug spray with you everywhere!” My mama would have been proud of me. I put on bus spray AND sunscreen. That’s definitely a win for the day.

As we hiked around the trail we continued to see beautiful things and take a lot of selfies. What’s better than a picture of my face with mountains in the background? After a while we came to an old brewery. It was such a cool looking building that had unfortunately been shut down 100 years before possibly due to the prohibition. It was so interesting! Finally after an hour, we were on the bus again to our next destination.

This stop was our big hike. The first one had been nice and Three Crosses (a stop we made along the way) was cute, but we were doing the real stuff now. The guides asked if anyone wanted to do the easier one, and we all defiantly answered, “No way!” We started our two and a half hour hike.

When I say this was the best hike I have ever experienced, I actually mean it. We were climbing in the Andes at 12,000+ feet experiencing beauty at its very best. This hike didn’t include the normal trees in the forest and nice flowers, but rugged land with lots of rocks, underground streams, and magical forests of paper trees. It’s not an exaggeration when I say I felt like I was in the Lord of the Rings or Princess Bride. I was waiting for something to jump out and whisk me away at any moment! After stopping to have a picnic at the top of a small mountain, we jumped through mud and walked through the spongy grass all the way back to our bus. We were all tired and sunburned, but it was worth every second.

I am constantly amazed by the beauty of everything in this country. From the mountains, to the markets, everything displays a natural beauty beyond measure. I’m so sad we only have a week left!

Tags: cajas, paper tree, patient flower, secret streams, sponges

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