Nacional Parque Cajas

High elevation lake with our guide Carlos

Nacional Parque Cajas is a national park in Ecuador that is about 20 minutes away from Cuenca.  Yesterday, we visited the park with Carlos, a birding guide, and learned all about the park.  Our first stop was a small lake at an elevation of about 10,000 feet.   We did a two km walk around the lake and saw some llamas, fish and birds. Recently, the park reintroduced Andean llamas so there were quite a few of those to see.  There were not a ton of birds out but we still got to see a few — Andean Gull, Turquoise Jay, Black Flowerpiecer, Viridian Metaltail, Brow-Bellied Swallow and an Andean Coot.  We also saw a really interesting hummingbird called the “Sword-Billed Hummingbird.”  It has a beak longer than its body.  There is lots of vegetation at 10,000 feet which creates a lot of oxygen.  As a result, most people do not have a hard time walking around at this elevation.

Our next stop in the park was about 20 minutes away at an elevation of 13,000 feet.  We went inside the Visitor Center and ate our lunch looking out at an amazing view.  The  Visitor Center had floor to ceiling glass windows and it was really beautiful to look out at the lakes below.  We hiked down to another lake and saw a Quinoa Forest. According to Carlos, these Quinoa trees are thousands of years old.  We learned there is no relation to the grain quinoa.  We also walked over these grass like plants that felt like plastic.  It was just like astro turf.  The ground was super squishy because of all the recent rains.  Andie ended up slipping when she jumped over a puddle and got a little wet.

Nacional Park Cajas was different than our National Parks, especially Yosemite.  It has different wildlife, plants and landscapes.  Overall, it was a nice park to visit.

Posted by Maren Guy

Asto Turf Plant — Elevation 13,000 feet


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