Cuenca, Riobamba & Banos

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November 15th 2015
Published: November 15th 2015
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OK, here we are again catching up on my updates. Exactly a year ago I was down in Antarctica so one can see how time flies. So without wasting any more time here we go.

After having had a fantastic time on the Galapagos Islands, and before the beaches in north Peru is was time for a change. Beach life is pretty cool, but there are so many cultural sights in Ecuador it was time to put my shorts away and get the cold weather gear out. On the morning of the flight from The Galapagos Islands back to the mainland my Aussie surfer friend and I took a taxi back to the airport and it was a bit sad to leave this wonderful location. But everything has and end and new adventures were waiting for me. The flight back was pretty uneventful and as soon as we landed in Guayaquil we walked to the bus station that was conveniently right beside the airport. I was in luck that there was a bus leaving within the hour to Cuenca, my next location.

The bus ride was pretty amazing as it went from 0 meter altitude to driving over mountain passes that were over 4000 meters high. There is something magical about driving through the clouds and above them. And it was interesting to pass through all the little towns on the way and watch the people. You wonder how they make their living in such a harsh environment.

Of course it was cold as hell and I had to get used to it after all the time in the sun. The promised travel time of 4 hours, as usual, became 6 hours and I arrived in Cuenca at 21.00, where I took a taxi to the hostel. Well, I now know that the taxi driver gave me an unwanted city by night tour, as I found out later the hostel was about 10 minute walking away from the bus station. I will never learn.

After dropping my stuff of at the hotel it was time to get something to eat so I walked in the centre of Cuenca where there were many restaurant to choose from. Of course I choose one that was full of Americans and my initial thought was that this must have been a tourist group. Wrong. As it turns out Cuenca is a bit of a retirement village for Americans that get more bang for their buck in this town. And you see them everywhere. Good on them.

Now a bit of background to Cuenca. The city was founded by the Spanish 1557 by the Spanish and has been UNESCO heritage listed and one can see why. The buildings in the centre of the town are absolutely beautiful. The cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings with their stunning ironwork balconies, the plentiful churches and the plazas are just a pleasure to see. And so many museums to see and to explore. And for a change these museums actually offer you something more than just a few vases or skeletons. So I got myself a ticket that entitled me to see al the museums in town and that kept me pretty busy for the next few days.

Of course the town was full of cathedrals and the oldest one, El Sagrario started in 1557, is amazing. When you enter the cathedral and just sit there and close your eyes you can just imagine how life must have been 400 years ago. And the plaza where the cathedral is situated is really nice and during the evening full of people enjoying the atmosphere. It is refreshing to see all the families with their kids congregating here and play, chatting and having a meal at any of the food vendors. I tell you what, nothing beats a good meal from a food vendor that has pride in his products. And there are many to choose from.

After 3 days in Cuenca it was time to move on and after another 4 hour bus ride I arrived in Riobamba. Now I had visited the town the last time I was in South America so I tried to find some familiar sights, but to no avail. That town had changes so much that I couldn’t even find one place that looked familiar. And to be honest it was a waste of time to spend there. There is not much to see at all and at 19.00 the town just died. There was nothing to see, nothing to do and after 2 nights I moved on. In hindsight I should have spent more time in Cuenca, but such is life. The only impressive things to see in town are the churches, but when you saw the churches in Peru they are a bit less impressive. Anyway, one cannot expect to move from one great location to another without hitting a place that is a bit of a waste of time.

I have met several backpackers during my time in Ecuador that told me that Banos is a pretty cool place and that there are plenty of things to do and see. And it is a town with many activities and known for their parties. So before going to Quito I thought that it would be a good place to see for a couple of days. And I was not to be disappointed.

Banos is famous for its thermal springs and it is located between 2 volcanoes which are still active and one of the craters is only 8 km from the town. The town itself is bursting with hostels, hotels, tour operators and bars, so it wasn’t difficult for me to find a nice room in a backpacker. As most hostels and hotels have their own thermal baths it was great to start and sometime finish the day with a steam bath or a sauna. I can understand that one can get addicted to this. And of course it was cheap as chips. During the day I hiked in the countryside and it was fantastic to walk on the foot of the volcanoes, sometimes feeling the rumble of these beasts. They are still active as I mentioned before and it is a strange feeling walking around in their vicinity, not knowing when one of them blows their top.

The hostel I was staying at had a rooftop area where they served breakfast and you can sit there during the evenings and night and just overlook the town and the mountain range. And I can tell you it is nice just to sit there on your own, take in the wonderful sight and think about life. In my opinion that is better than visit any of the bars that are crowded and full of drunk people. Maybe I am showing my age here, but I rather sit in a quiet place and enjoy the sight than spend it in a bar.

Anyway, my time had to end it was time to go to Quito. I had a flight booked from there to go back to Brasilia to be reunited with Carla. My 3 month exile from Brazil for visa reasons was nearly over and I couldn’t wait to be reunited with her. Strange thing when you are in love. But more to that in my next update. As you can see no robberies on this trip, no life threatening diseases, no radical adventures. But it was a nice time anyway. I hope you enjoyed this story and thank you for reading it to the end.

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15th November 2015
On the way to Cuenca

I can hardly wait!
Wow, you've made Cuenca and Banos sound like heaven. I've a couple of friends who are ex-pats living in Cuenca, but I had no idea there were restaurants full of them. Must admit Banos sounds a bit more attractive with a daily thermal dip and hikes on a volcano. How lovely to sit on a roof terrace enjoying the peace! Enjoy Quito!
16th November 2015

I'm looking forward to reading...
your next update from Brazil!
18th November 2015

Following along
We've been reading your blogs for some time now. I really need to go back and figure out how long you've been on the road....a long time and great adventures. Cuenca sounds like a lovely location- we will add it to the list, very long list. We love thermal pools and baths. Banos sounds good too. I doubt you were bored with no robberies or no life threatening health issue. Be safe and enjoy Carla!

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