Monthly Archive: July 2014

What have we been doing?

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in Ecuador for almost a month now!  So what have we been doing in Cuenca? Whatever we feel like! The best part of fun-employment is only doing things that you want to, which honestly, has been a lot of relaxing so far.

We’ve been taking Spanish classes in the mornings for the last 3 weeks.  Here’s a shot of Brandon with his teacher Rafael and one of me with my teacher Belen.

Brandon and Rafael

Erin and Belen


I’m really glad that we decided to take Spanish classes, although it’s a little weird having homework again!  Both Brandon and I improved a lot over the last few weeks and it’s been great learning more about the history and culture of Ecuador.  And it’s also been great for restaurant recommendations!

Most days I either workout before or after class.  I’ve either been doing body weight excercises or yoga in the apartment or running/walking in Parque de la Madre.  The park is so nice!  There are always a few people working out there running on the track or using some of the stationary equipment.

Track at Parque de la Madre

Exercise Equipment at Park

Besides Parque de la Madre, Cuenca has a ton of other parks that museums that we’ve checked out.  There is also a great bike path next to one of the rivers that runs through town that we walk on most days.

Erin on Stairs

Bike path


We (and by we, I mean mostly Brandon 🙂 ) have also spent a lot of time over the last month watching the World Cup.  This is really the first time I’ve ever watched much soccer and while I am enjoying it, I like it a lot more now that there is only 1 game every few days instead of 3 games everyday!  There have been a few rainy afternoons here that have been perfect for watching soccer or Netflix.  I *might* have already blazed through season 1 of Nashville and be well underway with the first season of Homeland…

All of our free time has been great for catching up on reading and wish lists.  Brandon is working on project that he’s wanted to do for a while and I decided to learn some basic coding and am working my way through some Codecademy tutorials.  I also volunteered at a local nursing home a few afternoons.  We’ve also been spending a bit of time doing research for our next adventure since we leave Cuenca in a week!  We still have a few more things we want to do while we are in Cuenca and are planning on getting them crossed off the bucket list next week when my sister Jennifer visits us.  Towards the top of the list is heading back to a little Belgium brewery that we found.  Have a great weekend everyone!

Brandon at Jodoco

El Cajas National Park

This past weekend we had the pleasure of visiting one of the main attractions in the greater Cuenca area, El Cajas National Park.

El Cajas National Park is located approximately 30km west of Cuenca. It’s full of picturesque mountains, lakes, lagoons, and rolling hills.  The name ‘Cajas’ is apparently derived from the Quichua word “cassa”, which means “gateway to snowy mountains” (thanks Wikipedia). While we did not necessarily come across any snowy mountains, it was beautiful nonetheless.


We woke up at 6:00 AM, as we had been advised to try to get there earlier than later, to ensure we didn’t get wrapped up into “The Mist”, which Cajas is allegedly notorious for. Apparently on many afternoons, a fog/mist will roll through, making it nearly impossible to see the trail ahead of you. Wanting to avoid such situation, we heeded the warning and arrived early.

Entrance to Cajas

Luckily, with our early arrival, it felt like we had the park to ourselves. Outside of spotting a local ‘pescador’ (fisherman) on one of the many lakes in the park, we didn’t see anybody until we were pretty much back at the park office. We saw more llamas than we did humans, which is a win in my book. Though, I made sure to give them a little space, as I was nearly trampled by a herd of them while on the Inca Trail a couple years ago.


While the weather wasn’t perfect, it was still a gorgeous hike. All in all, the hike took us approximately 3 hours, and took us through a variety of landscapes. Sometimes through odd looking forests…


Sometimes through scenic open expanses…

Open Expanses

And sometimes the trail even called for fording rivers…

Fording Rivers

It was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday morning.


Thermal Pools

Last weekend, Brandon and I took a city bus to the edge of town (only $0.25 to ride!) to spend a few hours at a thermal pool spa.  The area, called Banos (although not to be confused with another, much larger city called Banos in the center of the country), was a bit more rural but beautiful with the Andes as a backdrop.


The spa we went to was called Piedra de Agua

Piedra de Agua

It had several packages to choose from with massages, mud wraps, steam boxes, etc, but Brandon and I just wanted to soak in the pools.  We tried out two different pools and the turkish steam baths while we were there and it was a really relaxing day!

Warmest Pool at the Spa

Japanese Pool at the Spa

Each of the pools had a large “warm” pool and apparently for maximum benefit, you were supposed to alternate between the warm pool and going into smaller “hot” and “cool” pools for a few minutes.  The hot pools were really nice but the cool pools were COLD!  I lasted 10 seconds in the cold water before diving into the hot pool to warm up and Brandon was in and out of the cold water even quicker!

Before heading back into Cuenca, we hung out on the terrace at the spa drinking smoothies, playing cards, and enjoying the nice day.

Me at the Spa