Cuenca: Turn on the lights

Posted on April 18, 2011


My departure from Banos was a hurried one, shaken awake after 3 hours sleep my my friend to be informed we were running late for our bus to Cuenca. Disaster avoided, I spent the ensuing nine hours attempting to catch up on some sleep and drowning out the frankly terrible bus music (The Macarena came on at one point) with The National and PJ Harvey.

Arriving in Cuenca, and having been informed that due to the Founding of Cuenca festival beginning that weekend we would struggle for a place to stay, we were stunned at how quiet the place was. Arriving in Ecuador´s third largest city, on a Saturday, with an annual festival about to begin, we were amazed to find the majority of restaurants and bars shut, and our chosen hostel next to empty. After a tired wonder through the few events that were going on, and a meal of cerviche (basically raw fish in sauce), it was to bed to reclaim the lost sleep of the night before.

The next day was spent strolling round the undoubtedly picturesque streets of Cuenca. We continued to be amazed at how eerily quiet the place was, and having sampled the Old Town of Quito mere days before even the beauty of the city struggled to impress us. The wild river flowing through the centre of the city was entirely in contrast to the city itself. The food was more impressive. A standard almuerzo (set meal) for lunch, followed by guinea pig for dinner. In reality the latter wasn´t great, and we grabbed some street’side food from the festival and blagged a cheeky beer from a creperie (Ecuador doesn´t do alcohol on Sundays) before again heading to bed.

Then it was up early for a bus to the Parque Nacional Cajas. Excellent hiking, even for an amateur like me, was to be had amid rolling hills, waterfalls and lakes, though the real drama was to be had in even getting started, with the bus dropping us in the wrong place and us having to flag no fewer than three passing vehicles in order to find the correct starting point. Unlike my companions, I never stumbled once, perhaps breeding greater confidence for the Inca Trail to come (or false hope).

After a few Monday night drinks at a microbrewery in Cuenca (the place was a little more alive by this point), we again caught an early bus, this time to the Inca ruins at Ingapirca, a good experience but barely worth the four hours of travelling for the 1.5 hours spent there. Upon return to Cuenca there was enough time for a couple of drinks with a Swiss guy, unfortunately one of many fleeting meetings when travelling in this way, before bidding farewell to our Argentinian friend. And on to Peru.

Posted in: Experience, Travel