After our long stay in Montanita we had originally planned to head to Peru. We'd spent over three weeks stationary to learn spanish and we've been in Ecuador for over a month, more than we orginally anticipated. However, we'd heard from several people that Cuenca was beautiful and was not to miss. Plus, they have Ecuador's only potable water and we were really sick of using water bottles while we brushed our teeth. Given our lack of a schedule it seemed silly just to skip somewhere just to say we'd changed countries. Wikipedia says Cuenca is located at just over 8,400ft above sea level, the metro area is home to over 500,000 people, and is the capital of the Azuay province in Ecuador. It was founded in 1557 well after many of the other major cities in Ecuador. It is know for its colonial architecture andthe downtown historical area has been dedicated an UNESCO heritage site.
Cuenca is a nice medium sized city, not as overwhelming as Bogota and not so small as the cities of Puerto Lopez or Montanita that we visted on the coast. The architecture is absoutely stunning, make sure you check out all of our pictures to see what I mean. There are lots of churches scattered throught the city and at every turn you'll see buldings showcasing exquisite colonial architecture.
We did a bus tour from the city center that shared some of the cities history and brought us to many of the most interesting sites in the city. It also brought us to Mirador de Turi, a fantastic viewing point that overlooks the whole city. I recommend the ice cream joint on the opposite side of the square from where the tour busses leave, their Tiramisu, Oreo, and Mora (rasberry) flavors are to die for (scoop of ice cream + brownie for $2.50 and or two scoops on a cone for $1.80).
We also visited the medical museum in the city. This was a bizarre experience as it didn't seem to have a real entrance other than for cars to enter. We ventured into the parking area and through a hall that had a sign indicating it was the museum. We were greeted with a delapidated courtyard that looked more like of a storage area for broken medical machinery than a museum. I wanted to leave, but Jordan pushed me forward and we began to explore. The bottom floor is just a bunch of retired medical devices (complete with autoclaves, a hyberbolic chamber, and centrifuges) sitting around, you're able to touch and play with them to your heart's content.
Venturing upstairs we were asked to pay $1 each to help the museum and sign in. For our $2 we we allowed to wander through 4-5 rooms full of old medical equiment. This included old compunding and drug related equipment which Jordan was really excited about. Honestly, while I found the whole thing interesting, Jordan spent the entire time like a kid in a candy store, running from case to case. I defienently recommend a visit to this odd, but very interesting museum.
We left Cuenca for a day to visit Parque Cajas Nacional which is a large national park about 30 minutes outside the city. That will get a future post of its own, but I'll just say that it was one of the most stunning (possibly THE most) landscape I've ever seen.
We left Cuenca yesterday and our next stop is Peru.
Nuts and Bolts
Here I'll talk about some of the bits of information that might be helpful if you visit Cuenca.
- We stayed in "La Casa Cuencana" on Hermano Miguel, right by the intersection at Calle Larga. We paid $8/pp for a private room with shared bathroom. There are only two rooms that really share the bathroom so it was worth saving the $2/pp. The hostel was quite, clean, and nice. We made use of the kitchen almost every day. The owner is also ridiculously nice
- Visit the Mercado for fresh vegetables and fruit, it is west on Calle Larga something like 5-6 blocks
- This is a great jumping off point for Cajas National Park, I recommend a visit, see our future post about it specifically for tips
- Vist the medical museum, it was only $1/pp and had some interesting stuff.
- There is a Tia (supermarket) the block north of the central square where the "Old Church" is.
- From Calle Hermano Miguel, descend the (enormous) set of steps and proceed across the bridge the major road there (I have no idea the name). There you can catch the 7 bus (westbound) which will take you to Mall Del Rio where there is a huge Supermercado (we were able to get new waterbottles, a travel hairdryer, and peanut butter). There are lots of stores and fast food joints if that is your thing. Take the 7 bus back to Avenue Fray de Vicente and get off to walk home