The Ecuadorian bank holiday on the Friday really screwed with the travel plans so the ever inventive Diego hired a taxi to take us the first 2 hours to Cuenca where we could then pick up the local bus. This quickly turned into staying on the taxi van for the whole trip – probably not a good call as half way through the trip the roof rack started to work itself loose and bolts and bits started dropping past the window. A quick reorg and the bags were put into the bus.
Cuenca is a lovely town, really pretty and sorry Quito but it really kicks your butt on the looks stakes! We checked into our hotel and went through the process with Diego for getting to the National Park the next day. There are rules in Cuenca about only hiring local guides and that parties over a certain size have to have a guide – none of whom Diego could get hold of because of the holiday – so we agreed in the end that we would travel to the park in shifts each naming a different hotel. Of course when we got to the park the staff didn’t appear to mind in the least.
The park was stunning but at 4000m – breathtaking was the other word. Our first experience of walking at altitude was amazing but we gasped for breath with every hill. The reality of why you walk only 28km over 4 days on Machu Pichu is now clear.
We did a walking tour in the afternoon of the lovely city (and bumped into Mary from the language school in the Hat shop) and then a meal with the group and then bed to prepare for the dreaded border crossing.