Reserva National Cajas, Ecuador

After hanging out for a few days in Cuenca with Carolina and Erika we all hit it off pretty well with their family and so they invited us to go for the day to the nearby National Reserve Cajas. We met up early Sunday morning and after their mom fixed us some breakfast, we drove up into the mountains. This national reserve was incredible, with lush green hills and mountains jutting out everywhere and over 250 lakes.

We hiked around for a few hours and then as we were making our way back to the car, it started to downpour. we were lucky to be close enough and we made it into some indigious family’s house where they made us some excellent tea called Agua de Tipo which is made from some herb called tipo that can only be found up in the andes. They mixed a little moonshine into the tea and we soon forgot about how cold and wet we were. The family also served us a little snack that I forgot the name of but it was made of corn and the taste reminded me of cornbread from backhome. After the morning in Cajas, we made our way back to Cuenca and picked up the girls’ father and his friend and we proceeded to another small town that was having a festival. The main part of the festival was that everyone was preparing and eating cúy aka, guinnea pig. We arrived to find a wonderfull aroma in the air and a lot of huge-sewer-rat-looking-things on skewers over barbecue pits. We went to one of the vendors and placed an order. Then we walked around a bit listening to the music that was being played and some skantly clad chicas singing and dancing on a stage. Carolina told me that this was the type of music that the country people listen to, it wasnt very interesting… to be honest. After our pigs were cooked we sat down and began to dig in. Now when I say sewer rats on skewers thats excactly what I mean! the WHOLE rat was gutted and the hair was shaved off. but everything else was there, the feet the tail the head… But let me tell you that the meat tasted really rich. It was kind of like chicken, but better! Carolina told me that they eat nearly everything as she commensed to pick out the brain and chew on the cracklin. The cracklin was pretty hard, like a potatoe chip but it tasted pretty good. She also broke off the little paw and ate it too, toe nails and all.

After the meal, the family invited us to their family house in the country. We wound our way up into the mountains again and arrived at their plot of land where their extended family had built a few bungalos and had a garden. We searched for firewood to build a fogata (bonfire) and then took a walk to a nearby lake while carolina?s mom and aunts cooked up dinner. When we got back dinner was ready with some great tasting beef steaks and rice mixed with vegetables from their garden. The family sat around the fire talking and we got to hang out with some really cool people. Their grandparents were extremely nice and their aunts were quite crazy. We made it back to Cuenca late that night and Paul and I were quite sad, as were the girls, that we would have to be leaving tomorrow. We had an excellent time with them and their family and before we left monday we bought some flowers for the girls and bought their parents a bottle of their favorite brandy. Interestingly enough, their dad owns a furniture company and he has actually been to North Carolina to the Furniture Markets in High Point. He said his brother lives in Winston-Salem. Small world… as always. We took shots of brandy with their dad and then we were off towards the Peruvian border.

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