Saturday, December 3, 2011


24 Nov 2011

We were up fairly early again and headed to the dining room to try out breakfast.  It was a rather stilted affair as there was no buffet, everything was served at our table.  The food was fine and we were entertained by Thrushes and a couple of Hummingbirds in the tree right outside the window.

Spanish Colonial House - Cuenca

Lois 1 came to pick us up and we went on a walking tour of the old part of the city.  We saw both the old and new Cathedral in the central square and continued to a convent close by where a thriving flower market was ongoing.  The walk took us on a circular route that eventually returned us to the hotel.  The old city mainly consists of old colonial Spanish buildings and is very attractive.

Catedral Vieja - Cuenca

We almost saw an interesting bird in town, we noticed it tweeting above us as we crossed the street at some traffic lights.  Some of us realised more quickly than others that it was an audible sign from the traffic lights indicating that it was safe to cross the road!

Catedral Nueva - Cuenca

We also visited a small market in the middle of town, three floors of fruit, vegetable, fish and meat.  For those of a squeamish nature, avoid the rest of this paragraph and the next picture.  We had previous seen the meat market at Latachunga with it's on-site butchery along with every part of each beast on sale.  In Cuenca, they were also selling skinned guinea-pig, I guess it is no different than selling skinned rabbits...

Guinea-pig to go!

Back at the hotel, Lois 2 was waiting with the bus and we drove to the Mirador de Turi overlooking the city where the views were very expansive. We also had a chance to visit the ceramics workshop of Eduardo Vega where there were the most beautiful pieces of ceramics for sale, none tremendously expensive.  We almost spent some money, but the worry about getting breakables back to UK in one piece stopped us!

Onward again by bus to a Panama Hat factory near the airport.  Oddly, Panama hats are not made in Panama, but mainly in Ecuador, the best made in Cuenca.  The process of fashioning the hats, starts as home industry with women weaving the basic shape from palm leaves in their own homes.  Following this, the hats are washed, dried and shaped in the factory and finally have their traditional black band sewn on by hand.  The hats range in price from about $20 right up to $2000!  The price is dependant on the quality.  We handled hats priced at several hundred dollars and those at $20 dollars, the difference is appreciable, the more expensive ones can withstand being screwed up and soaked and still come back to their proper shape, they also feel a lot softer.  After the tour we left hatless!

Indingenous daily wear

Back at the hotel, we said farewell to Lois 1 and 2 and they set off for Quito in the bus which would take them roughly 9 hours north up the Pan-American Highway.

We had a lazy afternoon whilst it thundered and rained, but ventured out to a textile market eventually, thinking that the rain had stopped. Wrong!  We dodged around trying to avoid getting soaked and looking at the shops.

In the evening, we returned to Raymipampa restaurant as we had been so impressed by the food.  Several of the group tried the Churaszo whilst I tried Camarones - Ecuador Prawns.  (I think someone told me that Ecuador is the 2nd or 3rd largest exporter of frozen prawns in the world).

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