One Year in Ecuador – Part Three – “Girón”


Girón, looking North

Girón is a small town nestled in the Yunguilla Valley in Azuay Province of Ecuador. It is about 44 km southwest of Cuenca – one of the major cities of Ecuador and only an hour and a $1 bus ride away.

The town sits at 7,090 ft. elevation in the Andes Mountains, 3 degrees south of the equator and has spring-like weather all year round. The population of the town is around 3,500 (around 12,000 in the Canton of Girón) and the main industries are agriculture and animal husbandry.

 

Giró, Ecuador

After living on the coast of Ecuador for three and a half months we decided we wanted to see a bit more of the country so we planned a trip into the mountains. We applied for a house sitting job for a month in Girón and were accepted. The house sitting was only for the month of May but after experiencing the 7.8 magnitude earthquake of April 16 we decided to leave a bit sooner.

We also decided that living on the coast was not for us. Not only are there more earthquakes, it is also very hot and humid. I prefer it to be a bit cooler and drier. The mountains sounded like the perfect place to go.

We hired a taxi for the drive to Girón since we had all of our luggage with us, but you can travel by bus. We drove along the southwest coast to Guayaquil, stopped for lunch then headed into the mountains. Going through Cajas National Park was an adventure in itself. Driving along the side of a mountain is very scary but exciting. The views were amazing and very memorable. We saw our first llamas; they were just strolling along the side of the road.

After an eight-hour drive, we finally arrived in Girón. The people we were to house-sit for, Scott and Ana, were there to greet us and welcomed us to their wonderful home. They are the owners of a rental apartment called “A Beautiful Escape from Cuenca” which features a separate small authentic adobe apartment with a private entrance and use of a games room and outside sitting area.

Their house and apartment is only a five-minute walk from downtown Girón but at the same time is private and quiet. It is a beautiful place to rest and relax with views of the mountains and El Churro waterfalls. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a place to stay in Girón.

Girón is also known for the waterfalls nearby – ‘El Churro’. About 5 km outside of town, you can hire a taxi to take you to the base of the falls where, after a short climb, you will see a 60m waterfall. You can also hire a guide from the first waterfall to take you to two hidden falls nearby. There is parking, a restaurant, a store, bathrooms and a day park at the base of the first waterfall. At the time of our visit, cabins were under construction to be rented out in the future.

We drove to El Churro with friends and after enjoying the waterfall we walked back to town. The views were breathtaking. It was an easy walk back, all downhill on the main road – it was very enjoyable. You can hire a taxi from town if you’d prefer for $5.00.

Girón has all the basic necessities that a person needs. There are many banks, ATM’s, grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries and a huge Sunday market every weekend. There is one motel in town, a really interesting museum dedicated to the Battle of Tarqui, a central plaza with a park, and many schools. The church is modern and a focal point of the town.

The only thing that we found lacking was nightlife. There are no bars to go to for a few drinks or to listen to entertainment. The town is very quiet except for the local fiestas. The locals do like their fiestas, with fireworks going off at all hours, parades and dancing in the streets.

Girón is home to Fiesta de Los Toros – one of the most popular festivals in the Canton. The Festival of the Bulls is an annual religious event that celebrates the icon of el Señor de Girón. This cultural event is believed to bring rain and prosperity and brings blessings to agriculture and livestock. It starts in October and lasts for six weeks.

Priostes, who are usually Ecuadorian emigrants living in the United States and other countries, host this event. They return every year to partake in this celebration. The highlight of the festival is the running of the bulls or corridas. Every Saturday bulls are brought to the plaza and released. They are chased through the streets, caught and then one or more are sacrificed.

The participants drink the blood that flows from the bulls as they die. It is believed that the blood is good for the health. There are also exchanges of bottles of liquor (aguardiente) with the hosts and agua de canela (cinnamon water) as a sign of friendship and good luck. The dead bulls are then cleaned and prepared for a feast.

We missed the actual running of the bulls and the drinking of the blood – which suited me just fine. We did enjoy the various events taking place. Parades, a fantastic fireworks display, lots of food vendors, rides for children, music, and dancing in the street. It was such a fun time.

 

Outside of Girón is the little town of San Fernando and about 2 km from there is a small lake called Laguna de Busa. One day we decided to visit Laguna de Busa so hopped on the bus and headed out for an adventure. After getting off the bus in the wrong town – about 4 km out of the way, our adventure began and we walked a very scenic hike to San Fernando. We then took a taxi to the lake and enjoyed a great day.

There is a trail that goes all the way around the lake – with boardwalks over the swampy areas. Rainbow trout and carp can be caught in the lake. There are campsites and cabins available to rent. The hike around the lake is an easy hike but for the more adventurous there is a trail that climbs the San Pablo hills nearby.

After our leisurely walk around the lake where we saw llamas grazing, visited with some young campers, enjoyed the beautiful scenery, flowers and many birds, we stopped into the local lakeside restaurant and had fresh trout for supper and cold beer! We then decided to walk back downhill to San Fernando and caught the bus back to Girón. It was another very enjoyable and memorable day.

Girón has a lot of good things going for it; it is a small town where everyone knows each other. The locals are very friendly and a lot have spent time in the United States or Canada, working and then returning to their families here in Girón, so many can speak English.

We made many friends and enjoyed the small town atmosphere, going to the Sunday Mercado, shopping locally, eating the comida típica (local foods), walking the many back roads, enjoying day trips to various places, the year-round spring-like weather, and the fiestas.

Outside Girón

We lived in Girón for 6 months and decided it was time to move on. We wanted to try somewhere a little bigger with more social venues. We like to go out for coffee or a beer and just sit – outside preferably – and maybe listen to music or see a band, a concert or play. Cuenca was too large for us and we didn’t want to drive for an hour from Girón to enjoy these things.

We had our eye on Loja, a small city in southern Ecuador, and it seemed to be just right, not too big, the weather is perfect, and we’d still be in the Andes. We visited a couple of times and liked it so we decided to move on to new adventures in Loja.

Click the following link to read the last post of our Ecuador adventures, “One Year In Ecuador, Part 4”: Loja – The Musical Capitol of Ecuador!

Loja, Ecuador

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