Saturday morning I left Montanita for Cuenca, a UNESCO city in the mountains. I got the 5.45am bus since the next one wasn't til 10am and that would mean arriving later in the day, which I didn't want. So I set my alarm for 4.45am so I could pack the rest of my bag, make a sandwich for the bus, and get a cab into town. Unfortunately, the power was out so I had to do all this in the dark using the flashlight on my phone. I then had to walk to the hostel next door in the mud (since it was pissing down rain all night) to wait for my cab to the bus.
The bus trip back to Guayaquil was fine. The second bus ride through the mountains took about 4 hours and reaches a peak of 4,000m before dropping back to 2,500m. Like all mountainous bus rides I go on, this one made me feel sick and when I got the hostel I had to lie down, which turned out to be for the rest of the day since I felt so shit. Thankfully no one else turned up in my room so I slept uninterrupted The next morning I felt a little better and had breakfast before going exploring. Because I'd gone to bed so early, I was out exploring by about 8.30am, which is pretty early especially on a Sunday. Obviously nothing was open but all the locals were out and about for church. Seriously, when did church get so popular? And there's a church on every bloody corner in Cuenca and they were all packed.
Here's a selection:
This one is the main cathedral. Even though there was a service going on, I went in away cos I wanted to see the inside.
It was as expected. Fancy, with stained glass windows. I liked these flower ones the best.
Outside you can buy a bunch of crap and ice cream.
There was also some religious festival going on. Easter is still 2 weeks away, but I'm guessing it's related. I was walking around looking for Govindas, which meant walking the opposite way to everyone else obviously. I'm pretty sure it annoyed them while they were walking and singing their prayers. I got a lot of looks like I was a stupid Gringa who was getting in the way of their Jesus love. But whatever.
Then back near the cathedral there was a second parade. Not sure this car is completely street legal with a sheet covering most windows. Seems kinda dangerous to me.
There were lots of tourist maps around which point out a lookout, so I walked up the hill to get a view of the city since it's hard to take photos of things in the narrow streets.
You can kinda see the cathedral in the middle of this photo. (Those 3 pointy things.)
After walking back down, I started feeling light headed and nauseous again and had to go back to the hostel and to bed. Game over. I stayed there the rest of the day. Next day, I woke up feeling good although a little light headed and hungry after my unintended 2 day break from most meals. I am pretty sure the altitude had affected me since travel sickness does not last 2 days and I didn't have Glenn's anti altitude sickness drugs to rely on this time. On the plus side my daily spend was way under budget from not eating.
Thankfully Happy Cow didn't let me down in Cuenca and I found all the veggie places listed including one that did green smoothies. Yay, greens.
After my vitamin hit, I walked along the river, which is really pretty.
I think this is the first time I've actually seen someone washing clothes in a river. The water wasn't that clean though, so I'm not sure how effective this is.
I don't see really see the point of this bridge which stops when it reaches the river. Not very handy.
There are some Inca (I think) ruins in Cuenca too. I'm really not sure how these people (top left) got in cos there was only 1 gate and it was locked.
Here's some other ones. I couldn't work out how to get in here either so I walked around the outside (round the outside...) and took these pics through the fence.
They had some very cool looking plants too, which I think were more interesting than the ruins.
I also went to book my shuttle bus tickets for tomorrow to Loja. Word on the internet is the shuttle is better and safer than the bus and takes an hour less for $5 more. Interestingly a woman with her daughters who spoke no Spanish got me to sort out her tickets too. This involved some complicated verb conjugations (for me) since I wasn't talking in the first person and had to think about it. But the ticket girl understood me, and they got what they wanted so I must have been ok. Or they ended up somewhere else. I've never know.
Julian Assange's new home?
Pros: beautiful city, feels safe, good variety and quality of shops, good veggie places, lots of rotisserie chickens (if that's his thing), reliable internet when it's not raining, year round Spring and no wind so it only feels a bit cold when it's raining, nice houses, high standard of living, Cajas National Park (which I didn't go to but everyone loves), speaking Spanish is definitely a bonus so hopefully he's taking lessons while he's banged up in the Embassy.
Cons: altitude sickness, internet drops out when it's raining, religious people, retired Gringos everywhere, will have to learn Spanish unless he only talks to the retired Gringos.