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Down the hill from Cuenca...

STA73512.JPGWell, we had six wonderful days in Cuenca, met just the nicest ex-pats, saw a lot of pretty scenery, many stores that we have never seen before in Ecuador, and lots of restaurant themes completely different from any that we've seen.  The old town, or central part of the city, definitely shows it roots...lots of very European buildings--a lot like Salzburg, Austria.  It is filled with shops carrying exotic items that I thought were never to be found again...then there are the wonderful pastry shops...these definitely have a European flavor.

Now most of Ecuador thinks that Nescafe instant is actually coffee, and that's what you get, and that's what you get used to when living here.  Rox and I drink a ton of it mixed 50/50 decaf/regular.  Sure, you can buy ground or whole coffee, but the price is just a little thru the roof, considering the amount we drink.  In Cuenca, all the restaurants serve regular ground type coffee.  Some bakeries serve instant, but you don't have to search far for espresso type java...

The cobble stone streets make everything seem very middle age and charming--the narrow sidewalks remind one of Paris downtown...The 52 churches have been described as "one for every week of the year" are mostly massive, impressive, and different from one another.

The people are dressed in traditional indigenous garb, meaning that the women wear colorful, decorated  skirts, with a shawl or jacket on top, and always the little hat to finish off the outfit, and keep out the cold.  The men wear a variation of this theme, but they have on dark pants, but still have the little hat.  Now, this town has a bunch of colleges, law schools, medical schools, trade schools, and lower level schools.  Therefore, you see traditional college type dress--except at 8300 ft, you don't see shorts and sandals at all. 

The young indigenous girls seem to be trying to break the mold of mom and dad's dress code by dressing much more western style, but, who knows, as they get older, they could well be drawn back to tradition.

I could go on and on, but we finally had to get on our horse and ride, so here are several pics of us as we wind our way first up a couple of thousand feet, then finally down 10,300 feet to sea level and home...sunrise%20at%208300%20ft.jpg

Sunrise at 8300 feet









Now the experience of driving to the Coast from Cuenca is that everything changes as the distance, altitude and time progress through the eight hour trip.  We got on the road just as dawn was breaking, and if you check this map

http://www.vivecuador.com/MapaTuristicoEcuador.jpg  (Cuenca is near the lower right), you will see a slight discoloration in all the brown that indicates really high mountains.  That means that Cuenca is in a little bowl nestled in among a bunch of higher mountain peaks.  So...when you leave going east, even tho you want to go west, is because you are going around a huge mountain that is in the way, and because you are following a path (road) for two hours where you just keep going up.  Finally you reach the crest of the bowl and spend another hour or so driving at about 10,000 feet.

The air feels like Lake Tahoe on a summer morning--thin, cool, and full of promise of change.  We had had several days of scattered showers so there was a slight humidity...not the cold, dry air you could have found at other times of the year.  However he temperature was about 40 degrees F.

As I post several pictures of our travel across the rim of these mountains, remember that the camera can only give you a barely adequate impression of the majesty of the huge granite mountains all covered in green foliage--almost every inch.  The only way to actually get a feel for this is to be here.  As you look at the pictures, realize that those little squares that you see are houses--those mountains really are that big!









This shot gives you a feel for how high the passes are...we had been coasting for about an hour when we took this shot.   There, stretching out in front of us, was the flatlands going to Guayaquil and the coast...STA73536.JPG




So, finally we are rolling out of the foothills and the roads are pretty good, and the car is going great and we are flying down the road like a horse that is going to the barn.  The only thing is,  I am still dressed for the mountains, and the temp has just hit eighty degrees.  Well, off to the side of the road for a quick change, and viola!, I look like a coastal beach guy, instead of a guy in slacks and a dress shirt...

It's amazing how the change in climate also changes your thought processes.  Cuenca is cool, conservatively dressed, and Europeon, and the Coast is warm, laid back, shorts and sandals, and dominated by high surf, beautiful blue ocean for as far as you can see, pelicans, fishing boats, and beaches that are full of sand and hardly anyone else...

It was a great trip...lots of new experiences...new people...fun food, but it's good to be back--like they say..."you can take the boy our of California, but it's hard to take California out of the boy"

Posted on Tue, March 11, 2008 at 02:51PM by Registered CommenterBob & Roxanne | CommentsPost a Comment

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