Sunday, July 8, 2012


Hello again from Cuenca! After flying back to the mainland from the Galapagos we got off the plane in Guayaquil. Before we figured out how to get to the bus station we asked at the airline if we could catch a last minute flight to Cuenca and much to our chagrin, the 4:00 flight was fully booked, but we could wait to see if two seats opened up for standby passengers and the tickets would then cost $92 each. We decided that was too rich for our adventurer blood, so we hailed a cab to the bus station. Normally at busy bus terminals there are plenty of people who work for the different bus companies trying to corral people to the right place and collect passengers, so when someone asked us if we were headed for Cuenca, we assumed that was what was going on. Turns out he works for required ¨tips¨ and after ushering us through the terminal, he asked us for money. Be aware if you plan on taking buses through the Guayaquil bus terminal. Anyways, we had a very nice bus ride which passed through the Cajas national park, and arrived in Cuenca on Thursday night.

Thursday night we had dinner at a restaurant run by a family originally from Medellin, Colombia called ´Moliendo Cafe´which means grinding coffee. Neither of us had realized how much we had missed Colombian food until we had it again and the owner was kind enough to spend some time talking to us about his hometown and country. Oddly enough the next day we went to a little cafe/comedor down the road which was also run by a Colombian couple from Medellin and Bucaramanga. It´s interesting that there is a Colombian presence in this city, also we found it funny that during the hour or so we were in the cafe, a few locals walked by and asked them what a buñuelo was, apparently Ecuadorians haven´t partaken of much Colombian food. In a way it is not surprising that there are many immigrants here. We have heard that Cuenca is one of the most popular expat retirement spots, and the cost of living is much lower here than in many other places, even in neighboring Colombia. The city is nestled within the mountains with a river that runs through it as well as some ancient Inca ruins providing a very tranquil setting.

Yesterday we took a city tour with a local tour agency, basically a bunch of tourists pile into a double decker bus and hear about some of the local attractions. It was very helpful to get a basic layout of the city, see where the market is, the Panama Hat musuem, the National Bank, the ruins, etc. We also almost got our heads chopped off by low hanging power lines as we were standing up on the top level of the bus. Luckily, we survived, with heads still attached, and had lunch at the local market. It´s hard to beat beef soup for $1.75, although the mysterious kool aid drink that was included could probably use some improvement. We had snacks and drinks last night with our friend who is studying at the university here at a bar/restaurant called Cacao & Canela. I had a chocolate Mexicano, which is a mixture of tequila, tabasco and hot chocolate with some interesting pepper spices.

Today we decided to take a self-guided(and self-blaming for getting lost) tour of some neighboring villages. We hopped on the local bus to head to the bus terminal(remember that the Cuenca buses are somewhat automated and do not give change, in case you decide to visit) and caught the bus to Sigsig. About an hour and a half later we got off in Sigsig and wandered around. They have some interesting metallic statues outside of the main church, and a bustling market. We also managed to buy some ice creams for 25 centavos each. We also saw many women buying and selling the straw that is used in making Panama hats. Sigsig is surrounded by many mountain farms and on Sundays everyone comes into town to sell their goods and buy whatever they may need for the week. We then took a quick bus to Chordeleg, which was very similar. We went to the market and had some juice and french fries (lunch of champions) and wandered around the town a bit. Then we took a short bus to Gualaceo and caught the bus back to Cuenca. After about an hour we arrived back in the Cuenca bus terminal and tried to figure out which city bus to get on to return to our luxury hotel. We knew that we just needed a bus that stopped at the Crespo musuem, so it shouldn´t be that hard as there are a half dozen buses that stop there. Unfortunately for us Crespo was an important guy and there is also a major street named after him that is nowhere near the musuem that carries his name. Someone(the shorter Shapiroadventurer) somehow got confused between the two and we ended up getting on a bus that went to Crespo street. Luckily as it was heading back to the terminal and the driver was wondering what we were doing on the bus for so long, the bus passed by a bridge we recognized from our Cuenca city tour, so we hopped off and walked for about ten minutes until we were home. Tomorrow should be another action packed day of going to the Panama Hat musuem, and possibly the National Bank musuem. We are still debating as to whether or not we should go to Cajas on a guided tour before we go to Peru, which will be sometime this week. ¡Hasta la vista!

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