“When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.” (Yogi Berra)
The back roads surrounding Girón are perfect for hiking, biking, or rambling around by car.
You can walk or ride for hours in the countryside. You can see rural life in the Andes as it really is – abandoned adobe houses, churches in every little community, farmers working in fields wearing traditional clothing, people riding horses along the roads, chickens, cows, sheep, goats – you never know what you might see, and you’ll meet some interesting people along the way.
Our friends, Scott and Ana, invited us to go with them on a road trip to Saraguro, a small indigenous town north of the city of Loja, for a meal in a recommended restaurant. We left Giron at 9:30 a.m., arriving at the restaurant late in the afternoon. Our “shortcut” through the mountains added an extra 4 hours to our drive…
To begin our adventure, we took the wrong fork in the road, which turned out to be a good thing. We discovered a nice river and lake and tried fishing for a while – we didn’t catch anything, but there are reportedly nice rainbow trout in the lake.
The lake is named Laguna Curiquingue, which is also the name of a hawk found in the Andes. The curiquingue was a sacred bird of the Incans, and is still honoured in dances of the indigenous people of the Ecuadorian sierra.
Eventually, we did find the right road which quickly turned into a washed-out track. I stood in the back of the truck to give us a bit more traction for driving up the steep sections. In some places, we were just a couple of feet from steep drop-offs. Robin was terrified – not for the 1st time while driving in Ecuador. I recommend a 4-wheel drive for this trip, especially if the roads are muddy.
From Girón, we gained about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in altitude, climbing to about 3,000 metres (10,000 feet). It was cold enough to wear a sweater and there were very few trees. We met one vehicle on the entire narrow dirt road, somehow avoiding a collision, but it was a great short-cut!
We were amazed that the areas we drove through were populated, with farms almost all the way. After stopping on a bridge in the middle of nowhere, I looked down and saw an old man sitting on the riverbank. I’m sure he was as surprised to see us as we were to see him – we may have been the first “gringos” he’d ever seen.
The road gradually improved, and we finally came to the Cuenca-Loja highway. After about another hour, we arrived in Saraguro. We found the restaurant, ShamuiCo, next to the central park. The food was tasty – and different from anything I’d had before – I had pulpo (octopus). The service and presentation were excellent.
Taking the highway – not the shortcut! – we arrived back in Girón at 8:30 that night. Another great day in Ecuador.
Thanks to Ana and Scott for the beautiful views and fun adventure!!
A few photos from the back roads of Girón:
Girón is a laid back little town with friendly people and beautiful countryside. Plan to spend a few days in the area and explore the backroads. Visit the museum, walk up and down the main streets and meet the storekeepers. Have lunch at one of the small restaurants – the best BBQd chicken we’ve ever eaten was in Girón.
*Tip: While you’re in the Girón area, don’t miss the beautiful El Churro waterfalls.