Living in the Andes has forced me to rethink everything I know about what drives weather and shapes climate. I come from a country where it’s always winter in December – no matter where you are. In Ecuador, people will change their minds about what season it is depending on what’s happening right outside their window. Also, there is such wide variation in ‘season’ and climate from one valley to the next, from the east slope of the Andes to the west. Two hours in a car, descending thousands of feet, can take you from a cool, cloudy mountain climate to a desert. Last week I visited the Yunguilla valley – an hour away from Cuenca – but another world entirely.
I’ve been checking out the Trip Advisor reviews of Cuenca’s Amaru Zoo for the past couple of months. Most people love it. Some hate it. People who hate it tend to be of more advanced years, tend to have very young children, or have some very different expectations. How could a zoo NOT be a place for young children, you might wonder? Imagine a zoo built into the side of a mountain where you scramble up steep trails, over tree roots, then duck under chicken wire as monkeys, birds, and tigrillos (little tiger-like cats) threaten to poop on your head. If you like that kind of stuff, this is the place for you.
I needed a weekend to escape the rain. And I needed to escape my computer. I really do feel chained to a keyboard and a monitor on most days – weekdays and weekends. It was time to experience another part of Ecuador. So, last weekend, with a three-day weekend up for grabs, I packed a bag and headed south to the village of Vilcabamba.