Next I was heading to Peru. I had agreed with my boss, who was travelling for business, that we would meet in Lima on the 24th of October. So I had about 10 days to make it to the capital of my next country. But before crossing the border, I made one additional stop in Ecuador, in the city of Cuenca or “la ciudad roja” – the red city.
Of the two days I spent there, the first I dedicated to the city centre taking, for once, the touristic bus. The city and many of its monuments have been classified as world heritage sites by the UNESCO. And I have to admit it’s really beautiful. Although, for some reason, the place I decided to explore more into detail after the tour is one called “Prohibido centro cultural” – Forbidden cultural centre -, a museum for extreme arts. It was created by the artist Eduardo Moscoso, who couldn’t find galleries interested in exhibiting this kind of art. So he decided to create his own and, in doing so, also to support other artists. I can’t say I am really a big fan of this kind of art but I do like special, unconventional places and ways to look at things. And that it surely was.
As I was exploring controversial art anyway, I went to the Pumapungo museum, in front of my hostel, that same afternoon for an exhibition that was exploring erotism in the Ecuatorian art. I was slightly disappointed. I don’t know why exactly. I guess because I had the impression I didn’t learn anything new. It didn’t trigger me much.
In my hostel, I had a quick look at a folder with activities around Cuenca and settled for a trekking at the Cajas National Park. Apart from its name – which means “boxes” – its particularity lays in the numerous lakes and lagoons that form the park. There are about 270 of them. I was hoping to have a nice long walk in the open air. But that same air appeared to be very cold and wet. The moment I got off the bus, I got acquainted with a couple of Germans and we crossed some fellow citizens of theirs, who just came back from a short two hours’ walk around the main lake. Their feet and legs were covered in mud.
– Yep! That’s how you too will look like afterwards!
I have to admit it wasn’t very tempting. Besides, I was looking for fresh air. Not freezing air. But I was there now. And I still felt the need for some exercise. I needed to reconsider the timing though. I was at 4000 meters above sea level and still needed to acclimatise. A 5 hours’ long walk by 4 degrees maybe wasn’t the best idea. Together with my German companions, who were as prepared for a trekking in this weather as I was – which means not at all – we decided to start with the short one and then, when we would get to the point where we could divert for the 5 hours walk, we would reconsider.
The stroll looked pretty easy at first. No big ups and downs. Just getting around the lake. But it wasn’t always easy to know what the right track was. It was slippery. And muddy. After falling twice, getting my clothes wet, dirty and a few thorns in my hand due to an unfortunate encounter with a prickly plant, I decided I had had my share of adventure for the day. So had the Germans. Although I have to admit the landscape and the flora were amazing.
As we were waiting for the bus that would take us back to Cuenca, we had a Canelazo, a hot drink of the region with cinnamon. And alcohol. The perfect reward for the afternoon’s achievement.