An interesting little lesson in mindfulness when I arrived in Loja. I got off the bus with my guitar and day pack and went to use the bathroom in the bus station. As I walked out of the bathroom I suddenly remembered my suitcase. I'd completely forgotten to retrieve it from the luggage compartment! And the bus was gone. Instant panic. What now! Almost all of my possessions were in there. How could I be so stupid?!??! I went in circles for a few seconds, then asked another bus guy what to do, where was my bus!?? He said to go inside and ask at the bus counter. Instead I ran out to where there was a big parking lot for buses, saw the one I'd been on, ran over to it. Luckily the driver and assistant were there. I told them about my bag, they opened the compartment and, YES! there it was! Oh lord, the relief. I wonder at my carelessness to this day. Sleep deprivation was a factor I'll say in my defence.
I'd also stayed in Loja a couple of times on my last visit and enjoyed my time there in large part because of the nice accommodations I had. Two years ago I met some other travellers in a little town just north of Loja who raved about this wonderful hotel in Loja. It's not mentioned in any guide book or travel site and if you do a google search, you get a Facebook page and reviews for the restaurant but no mention of the hotel. Akemi Sushi is owned and operated by the well travelled native Lojano, Saul Coronel, who lived for many years in Japan where he became a sushi master. When he returned to Loja with a Japanese/Brazilian wife, he bought a rather palatial hotel with quite opulent rooms and an upscale restaurant that he transformed to a sushi restaurant.
The rooms are a bargain at $40/night including a great breakfast and Saul is the consummate gracious host. He makes everyone feel special, personally greeting all of the diners and attending to every need. Reasons enough to return to Loja but I also like the area and the fact that there aren't many foreigners.
From Loja you can enter the huge and diverse Podocarpus Park which I did on my last visit. It's a bit hard to get to and from and, being high up in the cloud forest, can be cold and wet so I didn't go again but did a very nice hike closer to town that I'd also done before, on a big piece of property owned by the university. I didn't see one other person in the 3 or 4 hours I hiked there.
The dinner at Akemi is a bit out of my price range but they do very nice almuerzo, the set menu lunch, very reasonably and it's definitely a cut above the usual.
On my second day there I did another hike to the top of a little mountain in the Parque Colinar Pucará at the edge of town.
A teleferico project had been started there by one of the past mayors but before it was finished he was voted out and the succeeding mayor discontinued it. Now the old mayor was reelected and it's being finished.
A trail goes up the mountain along the route of the tram to the top where there is a little faux castle with nice views. Again, I saw hardly another person.
Aside from more time hanging out at the hotel that was about it for Loja. The only other minor thing of note was having possibly the only conservative taxi driver in Ecuador, maybe all of Latin America, to take me to the airport in Loja which is actually in Catamayo some 40k away. Most of you are probably familiar with the driving style of Latin American taxi drivers. It's sort like a real life video game. Get in and hang on. Don't look if you're easily frightened. This guy was the total opposite. He was late to pick me up and as he poked along, slowing for every passing car, talking non-stop, my anxiety level rose. But we arrived in plenty of time and the flight was late anyway.