Tuesday, September 16, 2014

EL CAJAS NATIONAL PARK (PARQUE NACIONAL CAJAS) - Our Day at El Cajas Rancho HNOS Prado Restaurant and Hiking

A fabulous place to visit for a fabulous meal, to meet fabulous people, and to be guided on a fabulous hike!
Back in January we hiked El Cajas up to 14,000 feet.  It was one of the most difficult hikes because it was straight UP!  But, Bo and I made it to the top, and what a glorious reward awaited us.  The view was breathtaking, and the hike up was stunning as we passed several mountain lakes, saw amazing wild plants, and had a memorable time with one of our guides, Fabian Prado Ochoa.  We didn't know at that time that he would become more than a guide for us but a dear friend and family.

Since that hike, Fabian and his new bride, Maggie, and two of his brothers, George and Wilson join us every Tuesday at our apartment to practice their "English."  Their gift to us has been more than helping us in return with our Spanish.  They are truly our family!  They show up at 7 pm sharp and sometimes stay until after 11 pm.  Our time is filled with learning, laughter, delicious coffee and food that Chef Bo serves while we  practice grammar and pronunciation, and sometimes we have to kick them out - en serio!  We love being together, and we always look forward to our Tuesday "adorables" coming and brightening our week.  Along with the Prado Ochoa brothers and Fabian's wife, Maggie, we are joined by their good friend, Alfonso, and dear friends of ours, Jhady, and her 11 year old daughter, Lizbeth.  Our table is graced with the presence of seven faithful Ecuadorian friends who are hungry to improve their English and who also are our gentle Spanish teachers.  It is a time of conversation, reading, learning more vocabulary, and focusing on correct pronunciation.

Since we began to meet in February, Fabian and George have been continually inviting us to come to their family restaurant again for a day of hiking, dining, and just being together.  We finally set a date to just "do it."  So, on Friday Jhady picked us up at 8:00 a.m. and drove us to the "Rancho Hermanos Prado in the Heart of the Cajas."  What a glorious fun-filled day of spending time with joyful people and getting away from the daily routine of city life.  Rocky, the Prado Ochoa brothers' dad and owner of the restaurant and over 200 acres of private Cajas land, welcomed us and we immediately felt at home.  We sat down and were served hot coffee and bread.  That was just the beginning of a day filled with more delicious food, drink, hiking, music, and more of their family stopping by.

Well, why don't I let my photography tell you the story - yes?

Rancho Prado is a place not to miss!

Go to Occidental bus station at Ferria Libre.    
It is $1.50 each way and about a 50 minute ride.  Just tell the driver you want to be dropped off at Rancho Prado!

Our previous two visits to El Cajas greeted us with beautiful blue skies.
(See previous Cajas BLOG posts in July 2013 and January 2014)  This day was overcast with intermittent misting rain.  A perfect day to spend time in the Restaurant........
.....sipping hot coffee by the fire.
We decided to have a trout breakfast.  What fun to catch our trout and cook it fresh together!  George shows us how to do it!

I entrusted my camera to George when everyone insisted I give it a try!
I'm so glad I did!!   Now, Rocky and Jhady give it a whirl.

Time to go behind the curtain and watch the brothers cook!  
Wilson makes the salad.  I must say, it was one of the most deliciously seasoned salads I've eaten since moving to Ecuador.  He promised he'd show me how to make it.

Fabian takes over the "Trout" frying while Jhady and Wilson observe.

Trout is sizzling away......

.....and the salad is ready!
Oh, what a delicious success!  Cooked to perfection, and ready for the hungry hikers.
We enjoy the delicious food and joyful company together!

Come On, Bo and Linda.  Let's go hiking!!

Which way should we go?  Bo points and off we go!
(L to R - Bo, Fabian, Jhady, Wilson, George)
The trail was flat and close by, the scenery spectacular.  Because of the weather, we decided to stick close to home. George promised me a Llama photography moment.
Wilson spots the Llamas!
What a beautiful creature!!
We saw MANY and I was in photography heaven.
They climbed the mountains in a pack, occasionally stopping to look at us.
In one area we saw Llamas and horses grazing together.
Though overcast, the weather cooperated and it did not rain during our hike.  Only a tolerable mist at times.  The scenery was breathtaking!

While I clicked away, lost in the photography moment, Fabian and Bo hiked along together enjoying their visit......

.......and Jhady and George pose for the camera!
At every turn the scenery became more breathtaking.....
........A photographer's paradise!

Though it was overcast, it was perfect lighting for my lens.  These beautiful paper trees caught my eye.
Beautiful Andes Flowers graced the path.

So many varieties and colors.  I'm yet to learn to identify them, but Fabian and George know every plant and their medicinal purposes.

Time to head back to the ranch!

A magical waterfall greets us at the entrance.

And inside uncles, cousins, nieces, and more family have dropped by to join our party.

We stay warm by the fire as George and Wilson entertain everyone with their musical talent.

Brandon is on his throne dozing to the laughter, music, and chatter.
He, alone, is worth a trip to the restaurant.  He'll join you on a hike and has been running these Andes for 9 years.  What a beautiful, mellow and sweet dog!

It's beginning to get dark as the sun sets behind the mountains.....

......and adds even more beauty to this marvelous area.

Prado Father and Sons - What a gift it is to know them!
Remember when you decide to visit El Cajas:
1 - Dress for the weather.  Layer your clothes and make sure you wear comfortable water-resistant hiking boots.  Sometimes it is soft and muddy in areas.  You may also encounter areas of water and rocks you have to cross over.  Also, take rain gear, hat, gloves, scarf, warm socks.  Expect windy, cloudy, overcast, misty, rainy, and YES even SUNNY weather.  One never knows what it will be like - so dress for it all.
2 - Go for the day.  You never know what or whom you'll meet along the way.  If you visit the Restaurant, you're sure to have a memorable time and a delicious meal.
3 - This area is not for the fainthearted.  You will be at a higher altitude and in colder weather.  If you are not into hiking, then you might want to just visit the restaurant for a meal, and go on one of their flat lower walking areas.
4 - If you are into seeing and/or photographing wildlife and birds, this area delivers!
5 - You can rent poles and bait here and go to the larger lake to trout fish.  We fished in the little pond just for the experience.
6 - Don't forget your camera and binoculars.
7 - Take toilet paper (always, everywhere), water, and snacks.

Have fun and make it grand.  
Thank you Prado Ochoa Family for another memorable Cajas visit.  
You made it GRAND for us!!
Visit their FACEBOOK page at https://www.facebook.com/ranchohnosprado


  1. Not sure whether what I just wrote actually went through, but the short summary is WOW! What a beautiful article and photos, as always, Linda :-) Can't wait to get back and explore more of the surroundings of our beautiful city of Cuenca! xoxoxoxoxoxo

    1. Hi Sheila,
      Hurry home, so we can all take a fun trip to our beautiful Cajas and visit Rancho Hermanos Prado together. It truly was another memorable time for us with special friends in the mountains. You and Todd have to meet this dear family.
      I absolutely LOVE going there to hike and photograph the breathtaking beauty.
      I think I took over 300 photographs, and some amazing Llama shots. How blessed we are to live in Cuenca!!
      Con cariño,

  2. Truly beautiful scenery, like a combination of Western Washington and Wyoming with the wet of Washington and the altitude of Wyoming.....you take amazing pictures and we can see how much you love the people, the area and each other....Looking forward to visiting and searching for a new home next year....Enjoy!

  3. Thank you , Puaulette,
    For enjoying our experience here in beautiful Cuenca and its Cajas!
    Yes, the people are our gift here - and the area too.
    We hope you find the same blessings here that we have found.
    Until then, keep on reading and sharing our journey in beautiful Ecuador.

  4. Overcast is a nice change, as long as the clouds are up so high like that and not hovering close overhead. I especially like the photo of sunset glow reflecting in the little lake, just lovely.

    What a great day you all had, and ending with music too! Love the sound of the charango, so sweet.

    Thank you for another interesting blog post.


  5. Oh, Linda, so glad I figured out how to comment here! Nothing wrong with me--tech genius!!!! LOL

    At any rate, it was SO fun meeting you and Bo on Saturday evening. Email me at kownroom@yahoo.com and we can get together for lunch or something! And I LOVE your photos!

    Okay, maybe I have not figured out how to comment. Mine keeps disappearing. Alas!


  6. Kathy, you're not the only one having a problem posting. Mine just disappeared.

    Just wanted to say thanks for the amazing pictures. Loved the Llamas. And as always, the Ecuadorian people. I'm keeping records of all these amazing places so I can visit them when I finally get moved.
    Have A Great Day!

    1. Hi Juanita,
      Glad you enjoyed my photography and post about our "Cajas" experience. The Ecuadorian friends we have here are family - and we love "hanging" with them. They introduce us to their culture, family, friends, and joys in life. We are blessed to have met some interesting, fun, and loving people here. When you finally get moved (when? And are you coming to Cuenca?) you will have some amazing adventures and experiences to add to your memories.
      I hope you continue to read and comment!

  7. Had hoped to move sooner - but it probably be in January. Moving to Cuenca. Will let you know. Maybe we can have coffee or lunch -- or something.

    1. Stay in touch, Juanita.
      I'll be here - and look forward to meeting you.
      January is just around the corner. How exciting for you!


Leave us your comments and I will respond with any questions you may have. Enjoy our Blog! Linda (y Bo)