I am NOT going to buy a Panama Hat (that would be ridiculous)…..and living down with the youth.

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March 1st 2020
Published: March 14th 2020
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I am certainly not going to buy a Panama Hat while in Cuenca, the home of the famous and wrongly attributed headgear. They are indeed lovely and we have been to the Panama Hat museum as well as the famous Hortega y Hijos shop where the best quality hats are sold for $5000 which isn't worth translating into pounds, it's just A LOT. Apparently, the hats were worn by the workers who were constructing the Panama Canal and the hat was then christened Panama Hat when actually it should be called a MonteChristi hat which is a small town near Cuenca. It takes one person 2 years to weave one of the top quality ones so it certainly does not need to be squashed into my rucksack for a month and we are told that it is a myth that you can roll them up with no ill effect. So No way Jose.

Cuenca is a very gracious place and we enjoyed it a lot. On the way here from Alausi we diverted to Ingapirca where there are the ruins of an Inca city. We also went out to the nearby National Park, Las Cajas for a fab day walking in the mountains. We discovered the Jazz Society Cafe which is the only Jazz club in Ecuador and went there two nights running. Living the high life indeed!

Our first hostel was a bit terrifying as everyone seemed to be in pyjamas (actually “bits” of pyjamas).... it was vegetarian only, meaning you were not allowed to cook or store any meat or fish products (hide the emergency tin of tuna please)....and it all seemed a bit scarily hippy to us folk from Little KingshIll. We did stay there one night but moved to the lovely Pepes house hostel down the road where people were wearing clothes and we could get our laundry done. Simple pleasures….

But that is not the reason for the title of this blog being “living down with the youth”.....We moved after a few days in Cuenca to the very hippy town of Vilcabamba, south of Loja. We wanted to stay in a particular place above the town with great reviews and free yoga sessions but unfortunately the only available accommodation was in the dormitory of double beds. This was a first for us…we have stayed in dormitories in bunk beds, in single beds but never in double beds. How would it all work? Would everyone have flamingoes on their pyjamas? (this, we have discovered, is the sign of a “swinger”). Well it all worked fine except that one of the lads in our dorm decided to try and drink his way down the drinks list in the bar and got horrendously drunk. He and his girlfriend were on the mezzanine floor of our dorm and so she had to help him down the ladder every time he needed to get to the loo. He fell out of bed very loudly 4 times and was sick in the bathroom twice during the night and we did wonder at the pleasures of being young and foolish. He actually was a really nice lad who was very apologetic the next afternoon when he surfaced, even buying us a bottle of red wine to apologise.

Apart from that we had the most brilliant time, walking in the mountains above Vilcabamba and not taking part in the free yoga sessions as we wanted to be out in the mountains. One of the walks was described by Pete as “the most frightening walk I have ever done”. It was a walk along the the ridge line of a line of mountains where there had been cataclysmic geological happenings that had left sharp ridges between valleys and then landslips to add to the trickiness. You will know that I am prone to exaggeration so I won't give you my take on the width of the path but Pete (who would always tell the truth) says that at the minimum point it was 30cm. One one side was a vertical landslip and on the other other was an almost vertical rock face. I definitely leaned towards the rock face as I reckoned it was a bit more solid but the whole thing was very nasty. There was horse poo all over the trail which indicates firstly that some mad person had actually ridden a horse up there and secondly that the horse had found it as frightening as we had…..the picture makes it look like a piece of cake which it deffo was NOT!

Back to Cuenca before we travel to Guayaquil for a flight to the Galapagos. So exciting!! We bagged a last minute booking on a ship, the Cachelote Explorer, so we will deffo be living the high life for the next little while! See you on the other side!

Oh, I almost forgot about the Panama Hat. Well of course I bought one…….it’ll be perfect for the tennis club.


15th March 2020

So now that you have the silly hat all you need is a quirky whistling fluty thing. We walked over a bridge made of bamboo with no handrail for a bit. You will remember how good I am with heights.

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