I was pretty excited to go to Cuenca because I heard it was really pretty. And it was. It was prettier than Quito, hands down.
It’s a very walkable city, with lots of churches, plazas, markets, and two rivers. You can run or stroll or bike along the river, but do note – the main river that you see in town ends up splitting into two rivers, and you can end up horribly lost like me. (My first run which I was aiming to do in an hour ended up being nearly two. Ooops.)
I arrived on New Years’ Day and almost nothing was opened. I walked around to get my bearings, and took a few photos. Then I ate an okay-for-Ecuador burrito (It wasn’t terrible, but if it was New York, I wouldn’t have made any great pains to go to the same restaurant again.), caught up on email at my hostel, and went to sleep.
The next day was my wander-around-town day. I visited Museo Banco, some art, anthropology, even ruins in the backyard. Some signs are in English, but I managed reading the Spanish ones when they were lacking. Woohooo! I found a nice French café, The Black Olive, and ate a nice quiche and salad, some of the best food I had in Ecuador. I heard a lot of loud nasal American English in this café. I cringed at obnoxious comments and rudeness towards the servers, and wrote in my journal. Then I walked more about the city, stopping at a few markets to stock up on V’s birthday gifts (ha!), and ran into an American girl I had seen the night before. I ended up chatting with her and working around with her and her German friend who were both backpacking for nearly a year, but after a while, decided their mission of shopping in stinky (Seriously – one smelled like a gasoline leak!) clothing shops selling secondhand American brands (Ray always told me that people buy all the clothes from Goodwill by the Pound and sell it down at stores in South America – he’s right.), so I headed to a market, bought some plantain chips and fresh coconut, and headed back to my hostel. I ended up chatting with an English girl, Chloe, and a German guy, Ronny, and we headed up to a mirador to take photos. It was really pretty, and we got some lovely photos of Cuenca. Chloe and I made plans to go to these ruins the following day, and as our hostel was boring and we were tired, I just caught up on some email.
After I ran the next day, I came into seeing Chloe miserable. She had been throwing up all night long. She suspected improperly washed fruit. It could be so many things down here. Literally my stomach has been a wreck EVERY SINGLE DAY. Every morning I am experiencing misery. I can’t wait to go home and make the awesome tofu from Thug Kitchen. I dreaded going alone and almost chickened out, but was glad I didn’t. It’s a two hour bus ride to Ingapirca, the ruins, but a really gorgeous one – hilly, green meadows and hills and mountains and clouds dipping in. Really pretty. I read a bit, wrote a bit, and stared at the window.
The bus leaves 8:45/9, and gets there a bit before 11 a.m.; it returns to Cuenca, leaving at 1:10 p.m. – which is actually the perfect amount of time. I took a Spanish-language tour, and actually understood the vast majority of what was said. YAY! Then I wandered around the property, taking photos of stones that looked like the Inca, tortugas, etc. There were a few small shops, nothing that unique. So much of the tourist stuff is the same.
I sat next to a Brazilian guy on the bus and we conversed in Spanish. That was really nice.
I took a cab from the station to near my hostel to see an art fair. The cabbie started his meter but not his car for a while; then when we arrived at my destination, he tried to charge me a higher price than was on the meter. This led to an argument, and him calling me “gringa puta.” Lovely.
The art fair was not there, so I walked around instead. I got some cheese at the market for my bus ride snack in the morning the following day, ate at the Black Olive for dinner since I hadn’t eaten much other than cookies all day. Then I went back to the hostel, and hung around with some of the backpackers, chatting, playing Uno. We headed out for a drink and I met these awesome Canadian backpackers.
In the final morning, after a run, I got on the 8 a.m. bus to Ambato. Seven hours on a bus, and then I have to get a bus to Banos, which is another hour. Ugh. I hate all this traveling on crummy buses. Oh well, the price you pay to travel…..