Right off the tourist trail nestled into the mountains deep in the south of Ecuador is Zaruma. Not only is it one of the prettiest towns in Ecuador given its timber buildings it is one of the friendliest places. A perfect bolt hole at the end of term when I needed some downtime from my downtime.
Spent a couple of days wandering up and down the steep, narrow streets taking photos of beautiful wooden houses with brightly painted balconies and balustrades; having coffee; chatting to locals including the very lovely 9 year old Amelia who seemed completely bemused as to why I wanted to take quite so many pictures(!); and generally just getting some much needed r and r.
There is only so much excitement a girl can take so headed further south to Puyango and its Petrified Forest - scary or what (tee hee). It seemed a relatively straightforward journey but it took 3 buses and a 5 km hike to make it. This is leaving out having to negotiate my way over a landslide and having a row with a bloke who wanted to charge me $3 for hitch-hiking in his truck. After all this I was really happy to make it to Puyango, less so to meet the bag who ran the visitor centre. She was probably quite the rudest person I have ever met and I just couldn't win her round. Eventually managed to get a map of the forest out of her and set off to explore the forest.
There wasn't a sole in sight. Just me and dozens of fossilized tree trunks up to 120 million years old. It was quite mind boggling to think about it but a truly remarkable place. Loved it!
Given the nightmarish journey I had trying to get there I wasn't looking forward to the return leg but everything worked like clockwork. Got a lift back to the main road which saved me the hike then after a short wait I caught just two buses to get me back to Cuenca in the early hours of the morning. I was exhausted after my little adventure but very happy.