¡Viva Cuenca!

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November 3rd 2006
Published: November 6th 2006
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Travel-warp, I'm lost in South America, a few months of Europe and friends and family and a new continent beckons. Ecuador is a country of so much variety, from the Galapagos Islands, Coastal Lowlands, Andean Highlands and the densely jungled interior. It reminds me so much of Guatemala, a country I came to love four years ago, similar experiences; a month spent relearning pigeon Spanish, nights out in salsa-tecas, food of rice and chicken and eggs, guacamole and cheap cuba libres.

The differences from Guatemala are subtle, Ecuador doesn't have the history of CIA interference and bloody conflict with guerilla groups, Ecuador has a history of political corruption and war with Peru, contracting borders and then the bonanza of discovered oil. Oil at a time of unprecedented demand and rising prices should have made Ecuador a very rich country, but unfortunately with corruption so rife it has led to amazing deals for oil companies, a few very rich individuals and disappointingly little left for the people.

Now again a period of political uncertainty approaches, Naboa and Correa battling it out for the presidency, one the richest man in Ecuador friend of the US staunchly right wing, the other pitching himself as the candidate of the left with a background of right-wing actions, and a pat on the back from Venezuala's Chavez. Will the promises either of these men make lead to change for the better, or lead to conflict, I don't know, but after seven presidents in 10 years, Ecuador needs some stability.

Mixing politics with travel writing hasn't worked for me in the past, I'm too “lazy” to find out the details or maybe too wrapped up with my own experiences to do the topic justice. I'll leave it as it is - an uninformed opinion formed from talking with ordinary people in Quito.

Life in Quito has been good, school, activities, working on travelblog and repeat. Each weekend I take a break from Pigeon Spanish and PHP and attempt to do something different, usually with new friends from the school, this weekend, three weeks into an intensive course in Español, is a long weekend for Ecuador's national celebrations. Cuenca is Ecuador's third largest city and considered the cultural capital, for the long weekend this is the destination. The coast and the beach and sea that I'm craving will have to wait just a little longer.

Cuenca is a city of colonial streets and church spires, in the Southern Ecuadorian Highlands the altitude is lower than Quito, the warmth instantly noticeable. Overnight from Quito on a Panamericana coach, a night of someone else's knee in the small of my back, despite a seat theoretically separating us. Bus sleep, being not really asleep, not really awake, a state in between, like dining on fast food, feeling slightly sick but no longer hungry.

Thursday - Early morning search for cheap hotel, found - Hotel Pichinacha, a hotel of some three hundred beds, friendly helpful staff, cheap with shared bathrooms and sagging beds, cashing in on the busy weekend. Coffee in the city square, 60c a cup, with milk, I start to feel human, well caffeinated, an acceptable compromise. A day scouting out the city, one marching band of school children, and a night out in some bars. La Bramba cheap food and drinks and an hour long Beatles medley.

National day November 3rd 2006. Friday a day of celebrations and street parades, from villages all around came people dressed in traditional clothing performing traditional dances in the centre of town. With my lucky ability of sometimes being in the right place at the right time I found myself at the front of a huge gathering crowd for beginning of the main parade. Happy perched on the curb with my camera and a fully charged battery I sat and enjoyed the festivities. I wish I'd kept note of which group or village was represented by each series of colourful costume and energetic dance, but the announcements were too rapid and I was too caught up in the visual display.

The theme to the costumes seems to be, men: llama trousers, white shirt, colourful poncho; women: colourful beautiful skirt, white blouse with colourful embroidery. The occasional diablo, devil man with colourful head and prominent tongue leaps around amongst the dancers causing havoc, while the crowd shouts “¡Vivé Cuenca!” and claps and whistles.

Saturday - scouting round the city, searching for more sites and sounds, a rained off concert in El Parque de Madre and a long walk to an abandoned climbing wall, delicous ice-cream and a return to Quito via a night of bus sleep.

Sunday - recovery, writing, pleased with the photographs and time for a little homework. Deja-vu.

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 25


Girl and Guinea PigGirl and Guinea Pig
Girl and Guinea Pig

"at least I brought lunch..."

6th November 2006

hey, look like u are having a lot of fun in quito. how's your spanish so far? i am going to london in three weeks time and i wil meet up with donna. :) enjoy yourself in south america.
6th November 2006

So you're in South America now?!?! When most people send me e-mails saying, "I'm thinking of going to South America" I discount them, thinking that they are saying that, but won't REALLY do it....or at least won't do it for another year or so. You, on the other hand, just pick up and go to South America. Crazy. I loved Ecuador - although I only really saw the Galapagos and went into the jungle (and then hopped over to Macchu Picchu). Enjoy! Have some cui (??) - Deep Fried Guinea Pig. Yum.
11th November 2006

We don't care. We're ok, really. In this cold miserable northern winter. We hate spanish people anyway. He he! No just kidding, we're extremely jealous. honest.
17th November 2006

Hey you! Sounds like your still having an amazing time! I'm stuck back here in rainy Ireland...boooo! Your pics are great, sitting at my desk now in work wishing I was there!!!!!
14th April 2007

Great job!
Great writing and beautiful pictures!! Keep it up!
22nd October 2007

Beautiful pictures
I consider myself (as an Ecuadorian who moved to New York 14 years ago, I'm 27) not a patriotic individual, however after watching the pictures you took from Cuenca, my hometown, I have to tell you that they filled my heart with Nostalgia. specially the ones of the children. I had a Vuja De, (the opposite of a Deja Vu) I remember myself being part of such festivities as a child. November third, we celebrate the Indepencence of Cuenca, and if you thought that that was a colorful festival, and if you have a chance, go back during Christmas season, where there are numerous parades dedicated to the birth of Christ. It is an amazing cultural spectacle. Take care
4th February 2010

Beautiful Cuenca
Yes, Cuenca is a beautiful city to visit. Thank you for sharing those wonderful pictures. Julia

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