Travel Journal

Beautiful Cuenca, A World Heritage City

The trip from Puerto Lopez to Cuenca was the only segment of travel I did not plan in advance. There was no easy way to travel between the two towns. We had a choice--take 2 buses on a 9 hour trip for about $50, or take a private taxi and then a shuttle van for a 7 hour trip costing about $105. Hmmmm....pay for comfort and safety or go for the cheaper method but travel in less than ideal conditions, and keep an eye on our luggage. Guess which one we chose? (I know...it's more fun to travel with the locals, but...)

Our hotel in Cuenca was in the old town and was another beautiful colonial-style building with an immense inner courtyard and lots of antiques. We were within walking distance to most sights. On our first night we did a quick walkabout the neighbourhood, then had a dinner to-die-for at Tiestos. Eight different sauces/toppings circled a loaf of wonderful bread to start. We both ordered a beef dish in red wine sauce --amazing1 The chef even came by our table to wish us "bon appetit"! It was a lovely experience.

The first full day in Cuenca was filled with visiting many major sights--the beautiful main square, old churches, a well-organized "ethno-museum", a river walk, a vista of the town and a tour of a Panama Hat museum and factory. I didn't know that Panama hats are not made in Panama, but rather were brought in from Ecuador for the workers who were building the Panama Canal. These hats were the number one export for a while in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Len tried one on and fell in love it. He decided to splurge and purchase one (he does look quite dapper wearing it) and I went along with the temptation and picked out a cheaper and hip women's version. These will be excellent (and fashionable) momentos of our time in Ecuador.

The next day we booked a small group tour to Ingapirca ruins. Susie our guide was an older woman who spoke excellent English and was extremely knowledgeable about the history and culture of her country. On the way to the ruins we stopped at a roadside stand where a man was blowtorching a whole dead pig. This area is known for its pork, and people stop by to purchase some crispy skin or tender pork meat. Needless to say, we did not partake! Once at the Ingapirca site, we learned that it was the main temple and palace for the Inkas while they controlled the indigenous people of the area. Many artifacts, treasures and bones have been found at the site that tell how the Inkas lived and prospered before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. The structures that remain are mostly foundation but they gave us a preview of the ingenuity and precision of the Inka builders before we visit the empire's crowning glory at Machu Picchu. The countryside we passed through enroute to and from the ruins was beautiful. Susie answered a lot of our questions, and we came away more knowledgeable about the fascinating history of the people of Ecuador. It was a day well spent.

Our final dinner in Ecuador was at the highly recommended "La Vinoteca". This quaint restaurant was "all-things wine", with floor-to-ceiling storage of wine bottles on all walls---we felt quite at home! We enjoyed a great dinner with a wonderful bottle of wine, again a bit pricey but about a third of what we would pay at home. Off to Lima tomorrow, then to Cusco and the Sacred Valley...and we are so excited!