Hiking Near Loja: Parque Podocarpus — A Travel Tale

I was pretty happy to leave Cuenca and head for Loja. Even though I’ve only been gone from Mera for a week, I’m already sick of cities and just wanna go back to the countryside. Seeking some good hiking near Loja, I visited Parque Nacional Podocarpus, only about an hour and a half away by bus.

Pretty stream seen while hiking near Loja in Parque Podocarpus, Ecuador.

Funny thing, I received several proposals for marriage on that bus, but they were all from the same guy, so that may just count as one.

He was straight up with me. He said that he wanted to marry an American to get into the States. He overruled my objection that I didn’t want to get married by suggesting divorce. He didn’t mind that I’m Canadian because he figured it would still be easier for him to get into the States that way, and he even asked me what papers we would need to immigrate to the U.S. from Canada!

I was firm and persistent in my response but in the end, whatever. He was on shift and gave me a free bus ride… Well, not really, because I’d bought a ticket and gotten on with the wrong company, so since the attendant let me on for free, I broke even, but Loja International lost two dollars and forty cents, and Zamora Bus Lines profited from my stupidity.

Zamora is the kind of place where I could live: small with easy access to mountains completely choked by forest and a fast-flowing river crossing through town.

After a few inquiries, I set off on the six-kilometre walk to the park, along a dirt road on a mountain ledge overlooking the Rio Bombuscaro to the left. To the right stood high walls of sand which were being excavated.

Unfortunately, I started walking a bit less than an hour before high noon, so the sun was really strong and had me sweating within minutes. Forgot my hat, too.

But, hey, I did have the chance to use my brother’s tip of rubbing a fern on myself as a natural bug repellent. Thanks, bro!

After an hour, I arrived at a wooded trail which would bring me to the park, but there were still 30 minutes to go. At least I would be out of the sun!

When I reached the entrance to Podocarpus, I asked about hiring a collectivo (taxi bus) to go back — I just didn’t think I’d be up for another hour-and-a-half-long walk after an afternoon of hiking — but I would have needed to arrange one from town.

A rocky riverbed in Parque Podocarpus.

The man there kindly offered me a ride back, which I accepted. Then he showed me a map of the various trails in the park.

First spot I hit was the river, where I pretended to go for a swim by sitting on a submerged rock, the water up to my waist, and splashing my upper body.

Swimming spot at Parque Nacional Podocarpus.
Swimming spot

There’s a lot of current in the rivers here, makes ’em too damn cold. Second time I’ve tried to go swimming but the same thing happened at Merazonia: I chickened out and only went in halfway!

After my pseudo-swim, I sat on a rock about 20 feet above the river, ate lunch, and enjoyed some quiet time.

For some alone time, I found this nice sitting spot while hiking near Loja.
Sitting spot

Then I hiked around for about an hour and a half.

I found a beautiful waterfall, and followed the river downstream…

Waterfall in Ecuador's Parque Nacional Podocarpus.

I discovered a cascade which I could climb down part of the way — I hope these pictures turn out! My camera’s broken so I’m using a disposable.

I saw an amazing bird; about the size of a crow with a long beak like a hummingbird, a reddish belly, and stunning emerald-green wings.

And, check out the awesome rock formation below. It looks like a jaguar! The flat part of the rock at the bottom is the nose, and the two cavities to each side and above are the eyes.

It could of course also be a warthog.

This rock, which resembles a jaguar's face, was seen by a vivid imagination while hiking near Loja at Parque Nacional Podocarpus.

When I went back to the park entrance, the attendant was waiting for me — on his motorcycle!

The ride back was nice, with breathtaking views, and slow — I wouldn’t have been able to handle a fast pace on that road!

We only beat the rain by a few minutes. He dropped me off at the bus terminal in Zamora and I got on the bus almost immediately.

Ah, but nothing’s ever perfect, so this day couldn’t be either: a traffic jam due to construction delayed the bus by almost an hour. Boo.