Friends in Cuenca and Cajas National Park

We spent a couple of nights in Cuenca in a hostel (well two actually…after moving from a flea bag we crashed in late one night just before dark, and then another nicer one we moved to the next morning after inspecting it first). Swiss friends Michael and Simone, and Markus and Karin were all in town for one more night before heading further south so we meet for drinks in a local pub. They brought along a pair of new friends we met back in Quilotoa – Toby and Chloe, and they cracked me up all night.
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And then it happened again…

We were introduced via Facebook by Julio, our friend back in Ambato who was so kind to us, to a friend of his in Cuenca, Roberto. Roberto and his family have had a multi-year love affair with motorcycles and he opens his home from time to time to adventure travelers and fellow riders, just out of the kindness of his heart. He invites us to stay and offers us an apartment in the upstairs of his family’s home. They share all their daily meals with us, take us to family events, take us out for meals, and to a local thermal spa and a national park. It’s overwhelming how generous this family is to us, and it just keeps reinforcing my idea that Ecuadorians are the kindest people I have met as a whole.

After making breakfast at our hostel (#2), Roberto arrives to introduce himself and invite us to stay with his family. He will be back in a few hours to pick us up. We make the move with bikes and gear and get settled into the apartment and garage and that same night I hot foot it to the airport to buy a ticket to Quito to go meet my dear friend, Jennifer, who has been trying to catch a standby flight from the States. She messaged late in the day and said “I’m on a flight….get to Quito”, so I did.

While Brian was a little concerned about communicating without me there to translate, but as it turns out he was left in the best of hands. Despite the language barrier, Roberto and family and Brian got on famously. Their daughter Daniella speaks perfect English, and she and her husband, Juan Diego, and two brothers, Carlos and Julian, speak the language of motorcycles like her father. I’m guessing there was never a shortage of conversation. Brian spent part of a Sunday watching enduro cross riding at a local trail and has some incredible photos from it. I had some much needed friend time in Quito and laughed til my cheeks hurt with Jen, and made it back to Cuenca on Monday night and then enjoyed a few days getting to know this wonderful family too.
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Roberto and his wife, Janeth, take us to see the city lights from a small town on the hill, Turi, and the view is magical. They takes us to the local town of Banos to try out the thermal pools at Piedra de Agua, a luxurious spa that just walking into makes me feel girly again. They take us to Roberto’s father birthday party where we watch this loving and wonderful family take turns at clay pots like small pinatas, chat like all families and relax with a beer or two. I tell them later that being with their family has made me miss mine a little less.

They take us up to Cajas National Park on a Saturday afternoon and the landscape is beautiful. Llamas wander all over the highlands, and even onto the roads.
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We linger for days, and it’s easy to do since they are such fun people and we are enjoying ourselves so much. But its time to keep moving south.
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Thank you so much Roberto and Janeth, and to Daniella, Juan Diego, Carlos and Julian – for making us feel so welcome and for so many wonderful memories. Congratulations to Carlos on his new baby girl, and we will be wishing good things for the whole family.  We hope to see you again!

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