Our new Ecuadorian friend Santiago and his wife had been planning to take the four of us on a day trip to El Cajas National Park. On the day of the trip there was a heavy downpour…the sky was gray. By the time we approached the winding road towards Cajas from Cuenca, there was a hailstorm.
Santiago is a native of the Azuay region of Ecuador. Growing up in Gualaceo, an outdoor enthusiast, he has been to Cajas over 30 times. He said we should continue despite the heavy downpour. And if we can’t hike the mountains, we can at least go fishing.
El Cajas National Park has over 250 lakes, 70,000 acres of natural protected land and some areas are higher than 14,700 feet. The higher elevation makes this park much colder than Cuenca. Fly-fishing and hiking are popular activities in Cajas National Park. On this rainy day we stopped at Vida Verde en el Sur, a privately owned trout farm. This property has a restaurant, ponds, cabanas and trails.
We rented a fishing rod for $2 including fish food. Santiago said the highland temperature, the water supply in the area and altitude is suitable for trout farming. The fish are raised in natural Cajas water. There are over 10 man-made facilities in Cajas catered for those who want a ‘guaranteed’ catch for the day.
My husband, daughter and son were having so much fun as they fished in the rain accompanied by this black dog. Look at how wet he or she was.
The whole idea is to practice fishing and you have to purchase all the fish you catch. Then bring the fish to the attendant. You can choose to have them cleaned and cooked at the restaurant or bring the fresh fish home. There is an additional charge for cleaning and cooking. It cost us $2.25 per pound.
Vida Verde en el Sur has over 30 religious sculptures of elephants, condors, tigers, bears and religious figures. We spotted a cholita and her boyfriend under a tree. The owner created 12 scenes of Jesus' death along a path in his property. Many devout Catholics come to Vida Verde en el Sur during Easter to pay respect to Jesus as they walk through the 12 scenes.
Cajas National Park is one of the must visit places if you are visiting Cuenca and the Southern Andean region of Ecuador. As for us, we went as far as the trout farm and saw the valleys and mountains in the rain.
We brought back our catch of the day and prepared them for dinner in our apartment. Trout is easy to clean, has no scales and is versatile. Most restaurants in Cuenca serve them fried and the best was in Raymipampa Restaurant.