Ecuador - Cuenca

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July 25th 2017
Published: July 26th 2017
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David here...

We left Latacunga in high spirits. However about 10 minutes into the journey Suzanne spotted a family standing by a horse lying in a pool of blood by the side of the road, obviously hit and killed by a vehicle. The woman was still holding the reins and they were all looking down in shock and disbelief. This was really upsetting and it took us a while to shake off the feeling of sadness for the family and the horse.

We arrived into Ambato after an hour and bought tickets to Cuenca on the 12:00 bus, getting seats together, which is why we wanted to take this route over trying to stop a bus on the highway. The tickets cost $9 each. We had a 2 hour wait so got coffee. Suzanne asked for a bit of milk, and got a mug of hot milk in place of water. Still, it was tasty coffee for 75 cents each. We passed the time by reading before heading out and paying the 25 cents terminal fee. Our bus turned up and we were on our way on time.

The journey started out fine however the bus stopped at an office and more people got on and we had the pleasure of ending up with a young American couple sitting just behind us on the other side of the bus. They would not shut up for the entire 7 hour journey. His voice was just too irritating and he had no awareness or consideration for anything or anyone around him. We tried to block him out by reading and by watching the film. Although he kept pointing out very loudly what was happening at every point; "Wow, headshot man".

Other than that, it was pretty good. The scenery was absolutely stunning, as beautiful as Peru, with deep canyons, hills and mountains. It really was a wonderful journey. The films we had the joy of watching were Hercules with The Rock, a Liam Neeson film called Non-Stop, A Dogs Tale starring Richard Gere based on a true story from Japan, a WWE produced film called The Marine 4 (I wasn't even aware of the first 3) and finally a film touted as the Indian Rain Man called My Name is Khan, which was the worst of the bunch. Thankfully we arrived in Cuenca about a 3rd of the way through the last film at just before 7pm. By 7:30 we were at our guesthouse and in our room.

Our room at Hostal Paraiso de Betania was clean, modern and quite comfortable. As it was a Saturday we wanted to hit the town in the search of Rock and Metal. We quickly showered and within an hour we were in Antares Brewery and Restaurant with a couple of beers in front of us. I had the Stout and Suzanne had a Blonde Ale, both really nice. I had another Stout with my meal to use the 3 beers for $10 offer they have in happy hour. We both went for the house burger and it was really quite nice, one of the better burgers we'd had recently.

We then set off to try and find a decent bar. Our first choice, Zedes Metal bar, looked to have closed down as we couldn't find it. We ended up in La Barraca, which was playing Spanish Rock. We ordered a jug of beer and had our first taste of Ecuadorian Pilsner, refreshing but little taste. As we debated our next move a man wandered over and started talking to us in Spanish. We said we spoke very little Spanish so he asked us some questions in English. But he had a similar level of English to our Spanish, so he kept asking the same questions over and over. We weren't entirely sure if he was drunk or plain odd. Eventually he went to the bar where he started talking to more people and dancing. Just as we decided to buy a jug of Caipirinha he came back and started to pull up a chair. Now we like talking with locals, but we just didn't have enough common language for this to work so we made our excuses, paid up and left.

We attempted to find Zedes again, just in case, but failed. So we decided to try Classicos Rock bar which looked a long walk from the centre on Google Maps. However we stumbled across it almost straight away as it was marked incorrectly on the map. We opened the door and were asked for identification. We didn't have any as we'd forgotten that in Ecuador you need ID to get into most bars, like in the USA. We shrugged our shoulders, said gracias and mooched off. As we got a few steps down the road, the man who stopped us dragged us back and let us in, we think at the insistence of the lady owner.

We thanked him and ordered 2 beers and got settled at a small table, tucked away a little. The place was busy and the music was mostly Spanish Rock again with the occasional bit of Metal (Judas Priest, Iron Maiden etc). Even though we were tucked away, this still didn't stop curious people coming over for a chat. The first was a wasted woman who didn't want to talk to me but engaged Suzanne in conversation. Again the language barrier was an issue. Also, she was very drunk. When I went to the bar for more beer, I found her in my seat talking at Suzanne in Spanish. At this point her friends all left the bar and she was all alone. Eventually she moved back to her chair and slumped over before eventually leaving the bar.

Then 2 girls came over to say hello. One of them spoke excellent English and asked about us and where we were from. She told us that many people would want to come over and talk to us. We replied that this had been happening all night! Anyway, we all cheered and they left us alone. We ended up staying for 4 or 5 beers and left at about 01:30am, after a few more people had come over to talk to us. As we left, Suzanne thanked the owner for the Iron Maiden, which made her smile.

The next day started with a light breakfast before we wandered into town. We took a look round the Pumapungo Musem (unfortunately 2 floors were shut) before wandering round the pre-Inca ruins at the same site, which were pretty impressive. There was also a park, small pond and aviary there. After about an hour, we wandered into the centre and the lovely main plaza. The centre is a great place to stroll round with many colonial buildings dotted around. The cathedral is particularly impressive, it has to be said.

I finally got some new shoes to replace my battered walking shoes and we just wandered really. All the museums we wanted were closed, a bit of a mistake on our part really as we should've done something different and saved the town and museums for Monday. Oh well! We ended up having lunch at a busy local place and had chicken, rice, beans and fried banana with a lovely limonade, all for $8. We sat in the beautiful square for a while, enjoying watching the world go by. While there, a young man came over and asked if he could ask me some questions about Ecuador for his homework project, of course I said yes. His friends filmed his mini interview and I now find it funny that some Ecuadorian class is going to be watching me give my opinions and thoughts on Ecuador.

After freshening up we headed back to the centre in search of an evening meal. Most places were shut but we picked out Simon 7-84 to try. As we got to the main plaza we found a military cadet band playing in the bandstand. There were a fair few people dancing and really enjoying the music, we felt pleased to catch the last couple of songs before they finished. The square was lovely during the day but at night, all lit up with the band playing and all the people in high spirits, it was magical.

The meal at Simons was alright. I had steak, chips and salad (with a lovely chocolate milkshake) and Suzanne went for chicken stew with rice and salad. Mine was pretty good but Suzanne basically got a chicken leg in a thin sauce, not really a stew. All the food tasted alright but was nothing special, though the ambiance in the place was lovely. The meal was also cheap at under $20 in total.

We were up and wolfing down breakfast at 08:00 as we wanted to get the direct 09:00 bus to the Ingapirca ruins. We were at the bus station for 08:40 and eventually found the ticket office for Canar and bought return tickets for $7 each. The bus left on time and was at the ruins by 11:20, the journey being pretty uneventful, if crowded at times.

We paid $2 entrance fee. The next English tour was at 11:35, and it started on time. The weather was quite poor though, with wind and rain. The tour was pretty good and we felt that we learned quite a bit about the ruins and the society that lived there. The ruins themselves are unique as they combine the local Canari culture and Inca culture due to royal marriage. This means that the ruins themselves are a mix of local and Inca designs, which is why there is a moon and sun temple, the latter being uniquely oval shaped instead of the usual square. It was really quite fascinating. The tour took about 45 minutes and in good weather we would've stayed until the bus was due to leave at 13:00. But as it was cold and wet we sat back on the bus for 20 minutes.

The bus gradually filled up until it was time to go again. However 4 people were missing. The driver and steward went to look for them, eventually coming back 20 minutes later with them in tow, completely oblivious to the fact that we were all now late. We also had to put up with a loud French man, talking loudly and generally being an arse. We seem to get them on every journey now. We eventually got back to Cuenca at 15:45. First we successfully bought onward tickets for the next day. Then we made our way to try and get to a craft museum we wanted to see. About halfway there we realised that as it shut at 17:00, we would only have minimal time to look round so gave it up. Damn that stupid family making us late.

After popping back to the room we headed out for some food. We chose a little Mexican place called Mexico Linda y Querido which had good reviews. We hadn't eaten since our small breakfast so were famished. I chose a meal for 2 people, which consisted of chicken and onions, beans, pico de gallo, guacamole and 8 corn tortillas and Suzanne had a small burrito, but had a couple of my tortillas and fillings as well. Overall, a successful meal that again came in at under $20.

And that was Cuenca. We had breakfast and made our way to the bus station for our 09:20 bus onwards. We have loved Cuenca. It's a great place to stroll around and has some lovely things to see. We leave knowing that there is more we could've done, but having thoroughly enjoyed our time here.

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