Loja is another Ecuadorian city that is trying to entice ex-pats to move there. So we eagerly wanted to see how Loja compared to Cuenca.
We liked Loja a lot. We boondocked in a parking lot by the soccer stadium. The lot formed a triangle roadway that at times was closed to through traffic. Those times included the 7am and 7pm Zumba classes, after-school inline skating classes and exercise classes from 2-6pm.
After the second day we were asked to move since interfered with the afternoon classes. So we moved around to south side of stadium along a busy street. The plus side of these spots were they were free and only 7 blocks from Central Park. Downside: it was noisy and busy until approximately 11 at night.
The weather was good since Loja is at 2100 meters (6900′), warmish during day and cool at night. Some days a brief shower would roll through. No bugs.
The Loja population is only 100,000 and carpets a shallow valley with mountains surrounding it. On the western slope, large turbine windmills supply part of power to Loja. The city is going through a major revitalization project of the central historic area and workers are installing fiber optic cables, under-grounding electrical lines, installing interesting sidewalk pavers and re-paving streets. So the downtown area was somewhat torn up but from what we could see of the areas finished, it will be really attractive.
We could walk to Central Park and the main Catedral de Loja in approximately 15 minutes which we did every afternoon to get our daily ice cream fix. We also visited the San Sebastián church and plaza, Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, two separate markets and the Mirador de Churo.
We tried to take a city bus tour but it never showed up so we hired a taxi to take us around. He didn’t know the city too well and couldn’t find the main entrance to the Teleférico.
On our drive into Loja we had spotted this huge pedestrian overpass with super-sized musical instruments lining its sides. I had researched where it was and we still had trouble getting our message across to the same taxi driver even using a Google translate program that we wanted a ride there. You would think a taxi driver would know where a bridge with a 30′ piano keyboard and a 20′ high guitar would be and Loja is supposed to be a musical center for Ecuador.
One day we hired a taxi to take us to Puerta de la Cuidad – a historic gate for the now defunct walled city entrance.
Another day we hired a local bird guide and driver to take us up into the Podocarpus National Park to east and south of Loja. After climbing up in elevation early in the morning, we plowed through the rain and mud to see 19 bird species.
There is a big religious celebration that started on Wednesday August 17th where a pilgrimage processional carries the saint’s statute from El Cisne to Loja on Sunday 20th.
We decided to drive south approximately 20 miles to a campground outside of Vilcabamba that has full facilities to spend three nights before we return to Loja for the Sunday celebration. This area is much drier and lower in elevation so temperature is around 85. The area is known for the longevity of its residents with the oldest resident, now deceased, living to 127. We saw a few ex-pats hanging around the square at the cafe. An American couple we met at the campground moved here 6 years ago because of the region’s reputation about healthy living.
One morning We spent the ‘cool hours’ cleaning the outside of the tent area with a bleach mixture to clean and stop the spread of some mildew that had started. The last time we had done this was in Nicaragua. Second day we did some chores, including fixing a specialized electrical adapter that a guest of the campground drove over the night before and damaged, before a major thunderstorm rolled in.
We’re back to Loja today.