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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Loja Misadventure

Dear Family and Friends,

Our original intention was to go to Loja, spend the weekend shopping and return on Monday. But sometimes adventures take on a different face from what we expect.

Loja is a city that is 200km. south of Cuenca. It takes more than four hours to travel there; not because the road is bad, but because the road is twisting through the Andes. Chuck told me we actually crossed five Andes mountain passes getting to Loja. Here are some pictures of our trip down.

The roads are newly paved with concrete. Good road, but it is shared much of the time with not only other vehicles, but people, dogs and an occasional horse or cow.

The closer we got to Loja, we noticed that many homes had corn strung up to dry. We had not noticed this on any of our previous trips. This must be the season for drying corn for the months to come.

We got to Loja and checked into the Howard Johnson hotel. This is the first time we had stayed at the HoJo in Loja. It is a five star hotel with large beautiful rooms. Very unlike what I think of HoJo in the U.S.

We had eaten in the HoJo restaurant before on previous trips to Loja and knew the food was very good there. On Friday nights, they have a parridilla grill. This is an Argentine style grill, where they cook all types of meat. It is set up by the swimming pool. There is no menu. They bring some of everything they are grilling to you, sausage, pork, chicken, beef, and somethings I did not accept, like heart and kidneys. We got wine and more meat than we could possibly eat. We were fed until we were more than full. Then we were offered a delicious dessert.

During our meal, Chuck suddenly said "Oh No." I asked what was wrong and he said "Remember when you had the idea, that for our security in Cuenca, that we should stop carrying our credit cards and ATM cards in our wallets unless we were going to actually use them?" I said "Yes, I remember." He said, "Well I took mine out last week and I forgot to put them back in my wallet before we started on this trip. I only have enough cash to pay for our hotel, this meal and gas to get back to Cuenca."

I couldn't help, as I did not have my credit card or ATM card in my wallet either. So, our new adventure was cast before us. We had no choice but to return to Cuenca the next day.

We got up Saturday morning, had our complimentary breakfast and went to the other hotel (La Casa Lojana Hotel Escuela) we had reservations for to tell them we had to cancel our reservations.

When we saw the place that we were not going to be staying at, we knew that we would be coming back to Loja to enjoy this wonderful place. It was a large old home that had been converted into a hotel.

Here is Chuck heading into the front door to cancel our reservations.

While Chuck was talking to the front desk, I took a picture of the lobby(?) or living room. It was so beautifully furnished.

It is too bad we did not get to see our room. ..... Next time.

We headed out of town after filling Puff-Puff with diesel.

Since we were heading out of Loja fairly early in the morning, we decided to take some side roads and go through some of the small villages that the main paved road misses.

Here are some pictures we took from some of the side dirt roads.

I have to explain the next picture. We were looking down over the side of the mountain. I saw a small house, several cows far, far below. I took my camera, which has a 15x zoom and started taking pictures of the cows and house below. As I was doing this I noticed that there was a person milking one of the cows. So I zoomed in as far as I could and took some shots. This is the only one that came out half way descent because using that powerful of a zoom without a tripod it is very difficult to get a focused picture.

It was only after I got home and looked at the photos on our computer that I discovered that I had caught this precious little boy doing his business in the field. Just a snapshot of real everyday life in the Andes.

After we got back on the paved highway, we came across a delightful restaurant to stop for lunch.

The inside was clean and cheerful.

We had the meal they offered. The meal of the day, a typical Ecuadorian lunch. Chicken soup, main dish of a small amount of beef, a large amount of rice, small salad with a steamed yucca. We had fresh fruit juice to drink and for dessert we were each served a single strawberry in a sweet sauce. We enjoyed the meal very much and even more so, when Chuck went to pay.....a total $3.50 for both of our meals.

We had not been back on our way very long when Chuck decided we should take another side road into a small village about 5 km. off the pavement. We drove the dirt road until we came to the village. It was very small, but had a church and stalls for their weekly market. There were two men there, one with a horse and another man.

One of the men came up to us, shook our hands and was very friendly. I seriously doubt they get gringo tourists in their village very often. We chatted with him a bit and he told us that if we wanted we could take the scenic road to Santa Isabel and then go to on to Cuenca from there.

Chuck and I looked at each other and we both thought "why not?"

He was so right. The scenery was beautiful..

but, the dirt road began to get narrow.

but we forged on, enjoying the scenery....

It was right after I took this picture of Chuck and Puff-Puff that the narrow road started having a very very steep drop off on one side.

We continued on, white knuckling it, and not noticing the scenery as much as we were. Our eyes were glued on the narrow road and the steep drop off.

To make things even more exciting, we began to go through the clouds that we had been looking down on. They were beautiful from above, but going through them on this narrow road with the steep drop off was almost too much excitement.

Luckily the fog was never so thick that we could not see the road. We inched along until we were finally below the clouds.

We finally came to the bottom and the river we needed to cross to get to Santa Isabel. When we got to the bridge, there was a sign that informed us only one car could travel over it at a time. I thought it was because the bridge was so narrow.

But after we got up on it, and sucked wind, I think maybe it was because it was all the weight this suspension bridge could hold at once.

Chuck did real good keeping the tires on the boards as we went across the bridge. Believe me that bridge got longer as we inched across it.

We were on the scary narrow road about two hours or more from the top of the Andes before we saw pavement again at Santa Isabel. We were so thrilled to get Puff-Puff's tires on something solid.

Once we were back on pavement, we breathed a big sigh. But before we got to Cuenca we had some heavy duty fog to deal with.

We are so thankful that we did not run into this heavy of fog on the narrow dirt road with the steep drop off.

It took us a little over four hours to get to Loja and over seven hours to get back home from Loja.

So, as you can see, even though we did not have the adventure we had planned we did have an adventure.

Nancy (and Chuck)


  1. You guys took the San Lucas old road from loja and then the La Paz road to Santa Isabel!

    You know, the La paz dirt road is also host to one of the best mountain biking downhill competitions in South America! I'm sure you can tell why that is!

  2. I understand the feeling of being without a bank card. Several years ago Mick and I had gone to Northern Ireland and in preparation had moved money to checking specifically to use. On our first night we went in search of an ATM and I began looking for the cards. Mick had failed to put either of our bank cards in the travel wallet. We had a couple of credit cards with us, but did not know pin numbers for them and about $500 in cash. Everyplace we went, we had to make sure they took cards. It's all part of the adventure.

    Take care,


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