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UNESCO World Heritage Site: Arrival in Cuenca

Guayaquil and Cuenca

Once I arrived at the bus terminal in Guayaquil I had a great deal of trouble finding the office of the minivan service I'd been recommended instead of the big public bus because it turned out not to be at the terminal itself. I wandered around getting increasingly frustrated, especially after 8.30 came and went (the time I'd been told I had to arrive at for a 9 o'clock departure time); I asked a couple of people for directions but couldn't understand enough of their replies for them to be much use. The third person I asked, however, an old woman working in a small shop at the 'commercial centre' nearby, took me part of the way there. I eventually arrived at the office at 8.55! Luckily it didn't matter that I was late, because I had to wait there until quarter past nine anyway.

The journey to Cuenca took about three hours. Before we got to the mountains we passed several banana plantations, what I guessed was a sugar cane plantation, an orchard of small trees with a fruit I couldn't recognise, lots of wooden shacks on stilts, and a few hamlets with shacks/ houses/ shops made of brick but with corrugated iron roofs. Most of these hamlets had large roadside fruit stalls with tables piled with oranges, plantains and massive watermelons, and pineapples and bunches of bananas hanging from strings from the ceilings.

Eventually we started to climb and climb, and the popping of my eardrums made me realise the altitude. We passed through low-lying clouds - for about 10-15 minutes we couldn't see more than about 10 feet ahead, and although we were driving along a mountainside we couldn't see over the side at all. I thought this a shame because I guessed the view was probably amazing. The driver only slowed down a little bit at the many bends in the road, and on several occasions during the whole journey he talked on his mobile and drove at the same time, which would have worried me more only I'm used to terrible driving in Guayaquil! At least the road was of good quality.

We drover higher, broke through the clouds and kept on going. I kept getting glimpses of the view of the clouds spread below us with mountaintops peeping through, as if we were in an aeroplane! It was amazing, but I never managed to get proper photos of it because the road barrier and trees and bushes kept blocking the view and I never got more than a second or two to take a picture. Some time later we saw a range of mountain peaks ahead which had clouds near the top - of these I managed to get better photos.

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Eventually we descended into a valley and I saw llamas for the first time in Ecuador! It brought back memories of the first time I saw llamas in South America, in Bolivia in 2009. There were also grey ponies and black and white cows. Not too long after that we passed shacks and then the outskirts of Cuenca.

I had no idea where the minivan company's office was in relation to my hostel, but instead of getting a taxi I decided to walk. My hearing was a bit messed up, just like it usually is after a flight, but it soon cleared up. I headed towards a main road and came across a river, so although I had to follow the road next to the river for ages before the streets started appearing on the map in my guidebook, I did get to my hostel in the end. The hostel, Hostal Villa del Rosario, had no record of my single room booking but gave me a twin room to myself straightaway instead, so I didn't mind. Although it was basic, the room still looked cosy. The hostel had a really nice laid-back rather arty/ bohemian air, and had a courtyard with several tropical plants and trees in it.

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As soon as I'd dumped my stuff I headed back out. I walked around the corner to Museo de las Culturas Aborigines - an archaeological museum of Ecuador's pre-Columbian cultures - which was interesting. Things I saw included; clay whistles in the shape of animals, carved bones used as boards for ritual games, bone flutes, shell spoons, a clay statue of a set of conjoined twins, clay statues of shamans with religious offerings, small figures of deformed humans, stone corn on the cobs, and stone bolas used for hunting.

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After leaving the museum I walked down a long flight of steps to the river Tomebamba.

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I said hello to it from a bridge and walked along the path for a bit before going back up the stairs and wandering around town taking pictures. Cuenca has a lot of beautiful colonial buildings.

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I noticed a lot of the local women were wearing the traditional women's clothes of Cuenca, which is a brightly coloured skirt, some with an embroidered hem, a shawl and a Panama hat (or Montecristi hat as they are known in Ecuador...) Cuenca is a centre of Panama/ Montecristi hat making. Some also wear their hair in two long plaits. The men of Cuenca just wear ordinary clothes, as do many of the younger female generation.

After about an hour, however, my hips and knee started hurting a lot for some reason, so I decided to call it a day and went into an internet cafe for 40 minutes. It was getting dark when I came out. I still had crisps and a chocolate brownie from my packed lunch left, so I had those for dinner instead of going for a meal out. It was actually cold at night which was a novelty to me after living in Guayaquil for three months!

Posted by 3Traveller 08:33 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains museum hostel andes ecuador cuenca unesco_world_heritage_site pre_columbian_artifacts traditional_customs colonial_church Comments (0)

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