El Cajas National Park
A final breakfast at the El Dorado Hotel before we gather our luggage and set off towards El Cajas National Park. After driving for approximately 45 minutes we make a comfort stop at a lodge, located shortly before the park entrance. The lodge has been built alongside a mountain, and some of the rooms feature mountain rocks! The architecture is dramatic, with huge timbers and high ceilings. Outside there are numerous trout pools, and stables for horses! On arrival it is quite cool and cloudy. When we leave the sun is shining and the clouds have lifted, which makes for an excellent drive through El Cajas National Park. The park features hundreds of clear, cold lakes, streams and rivers. Llamas and alpacas have been introduced for a breeding programme, although we only see one or two near the road. We reach over 14,000 feet at one point. We make a quick stop at the Three Crosses for the view, before starting our journey downhill to the coast.
This drive is stunning, and while still above the coastal clouds, we stop at a friendly café to consume our picnic lunches. A few thousand feet lower in elevation we reach the banana and cocoa plantations of the coastal region. We visit a family owned farm to learn about cocoa production. Other local crops include sugar cane and rice. Once we step outside our air-conditioned coach we can feel the temperature is higher now we’re close to the coast.
There is plenty of traffic leaving the coast and heading to Cuenca for the holiday weekend, but thankfully we’re heading in the other direction and after a well-deserved ice cream stop we are soon at the Wyndham Hotel in Guayaquil for our two-night stay. The hotel is at one end of the award-winning Malecón which is the name given to a long boardwalk development overlooking the Guayas River.
Once all settled in, Dawn heads off to the airport to meet guests joining us for the Galápagos part of our tour. With the group complete, we enjoy our private buffet dinner at our hotel.
photo © Rostislav Ageev