“I have already lost my meal,” I say as the waitress walks up to the table. I don’t realize what I’ve said until she looks at me a little funny. Of course, I really meant to say, “I have already ordered my meal,” but the Spanish verbs for ‘to lose’ (perder) and for ‘to ask for, or, to order’ (pedir) are too close in my head, and I constantly mix them up. If you’ve spent any amount of time trying to communicate in another language, you’ve certainly had moments of enlightenment where you realize exactly how silly you probably just sounded.
The clouds here hang in thick patches on the sides of the hills. Sometimes they seem to rise right out of the trees, forming only a few feet above the canopy as water vapor from this steamy forest becomes too much for the air to handle. If my trip to Alausí gave me the impression of going back in time, my visit to the Bombuscaro River valley on the northern border of Parque Nacional Podocarpus took me even further back. Let’s just say that it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise to see a dinosaur come crashing through the underbrush.
The old railway ride to el Nariz de Diablo (the Devil’s Nose) and back is one of the big items on most tour agendas and tops the checklists for those making the rounds through Ecuador’s central Sierra. This two and a half hour trip originates from the mountain pueblo of Alausí, about a 4 hour bus ride north of Cuenca. The train goes down a rather stunning river gorge along a set of railway switchbacks, and, after a rest in a small village, makes its way back up the mountain again. The trip has come highly recommended to me by tourists and locals alike. Obviously, it’s quite popular. But I think the many people that pass through town are missing out on what was the highlight of my own visit: A chance to rest in the clouds at Posada de las Nubes.
Imagine a high, windswept, rolling plain, with tall grasses sprouting from spongy soil. This is a place where you can watch the clouds and feel them engulf you before they scurry past, as they race to the next mountain top. The sky here is ever-changing, offering an occasional glimpse of blue, where wispy cirrus cruise by at a leisurely pace high above compared to the ragged cumulus and foggy patches that race by just above your head.