28 October 2015
Just a note - we met an Ecuadorean tour guide who looked at my animal photo and said that these are llamas, not alpacas. Sorry for the confusion.
We took the back road out of Cuenca toward Guayaquil, not sure how far we'd get nor where we'd spend the night. There was some road work being done on the avenue we needed, so there were detours, and for a while we had no idea if we were on the right road or not.
But finally some of the tiny towns matched where we needed to be according to the map, and we did our usual winding around mountains and driving along what seemed like cliffs and drop offs.
Some areas were green and lush, others were almost barren and dry parched grass with wind-tortured trees. I suspect it depends which side of the mountain or even mountain range one was on - one side would get all the rain, the other would be in the rain shadow and thus be all dry.
At one point, we entered the Parque Nacional Cajas, or the Cajas National Park. This was some of the driest and arid land we had seen yet, with amazing rocky outcroppings on top of the various hills. It was also really cold - no idea how high up we were at this point, but one of the hills or plateaus was some 4,300 meters on our map - so maybe 13,000 feet? Yes, HIGH!
We continue driving along, or rather Richard driving and me navigating. There are signs about don't litter, this is a fragile environment, take care of the flora and fauna, animal crossing, be careful, etc.
And then - all of a sudden - a few alpacas or llamas or one of those cuddly furry animals who lives up in these wild and barren mountains!!!!!!
And OH WOW MORE ALPACAS!!!!! A whole mini herd! Or flock!!!!!
An amazing photo considering this was taken from the car as we drove by!
Look at those cute little faces and furry cuddly bodies! How adorable! How wonderful to see wild alpacas just hanging out in the Andes!!!!!
We saw a few more walking up the hill, brown alpacas daintily placing one foot in front of the other, walking on the shoulder of the road. I have no idea if it was easier to walk on the more level road, even though the concrete might be harder on their little hooves. But they seemed to prefer walking on the side of the road to walking around on the uneven mountain slopes. Although they certainly liked grazing on whatever was growing there. They looked like big brown fuzzballs walking up the hill. And really, they do walk quite daintily, almost like little old ladies in very high heels, placing each foot so carefully and politely on the ground.
By the time we started heading downhill, we encountered more fog and rain, which really slowed us down - we could barely see five feet in front of the car! I think this was on the western side of the mountain range, so the clouds and fog most likely blew in from the Pacific and just piled up against the Andes. We drove through downward spirals and hairpin turns, in a tunnel of fog. We finally emerged in tropical rainforest, full of dripping ferns and huge green plants, not a conifer in sight.
Somewhere along the way we either made a wrong turn or missed an intersection, because we ended up several roads north of where we had expected to - so we actually were further north on E25 than we had planned. Well, okay, plans change, so we headed toward Guayaquil. We hadn't planned to spend a night here, but this is where we ended up.
But hey, when you see wild alpacas, it makes everything good, right?