Anthony on the Gringo Trail 2005 travel blog

Cuenca Cathedral

Riverside houses in Cuenca

So I got a bus to Cuenca. As the bus only had gringos on it, this time we had a toilet stop, as the bus driver obviously know we have weaker bladders in the west. Either that or the driver's cousins owned all the shops in the town we stopped in. As usual, the views were magnificent, this is such a beautiful country. It is almost more fun travelling to places than actually getting to them. A strange sight on the way was a German family on push bikes in full lycra gear. If you knew how hot it was and how steep absolutely everywhere round here is you would be as amazed as the gringos and especially the locals were, who all came out to marvel. Their bikes were heavily laden with bags and they were towing one of those little mini caravans with two young kids in it, which round here is frankly grounds for child care proceedings I think.

A strange hotel in Cuenca. It is a very old, very large colonial house that has been loosely converted. At first I did not like it all, I felt like I was living in someone's patio, but once I had got over the lack of privacy - common round here - I quite liked it. And then wandered around the town a bit, though not much going on late on a Sunday night, except nice scoff.

And up early to explore more. I am now at a mere 2,500 metres, but still pleasantly cool. Lurked at the back during morning mass in the rather nice cathedral, and generally chilled out. Cuenca is a very beautiful city, and very tranquillo, as they say round here, which means quiet in many senses of the word. It is a university town of some 200,000 people, and noted for its intellectuals and art and culture, etc. May explain why there aren't armed security guards or street homeless anywhere. And most strangely, there doesn't seem to be rubbish everywhere, not even in the very pretty river that runs throuh the city! Equivalent to Bath really. As yet, I can't find an internet place with a card reader, so can't upload my pics. And later today I move to Loja as I speed up getting to Cusco in Peru to meet Erica.

Later...So here I am in Loja, after an even more wonderful bus journey than all the rest, if that was possible. At least in terms of the views anyway. The girl sitting next to me was sick, though. I got out the way in time, but my daypack suffered collateral damage. I did take a couple of pics out the bus window, but they didn't seem to me to capture the magnificence of the landscape, which is largely green, a lot of trees, everywhere is very steep indeed, and there are huge canyons and hills, a very busy landscape. The reason most gringos come here is to go the small traveller's village of Villacabamba about 90 minutes from here, amongst even lovelier countryside if that was possible. Unfortunately I don't have time to do that. Really I needed at least another week in Ecuador, but all travelling involves not going to more places than one does go to. C├ęst la vie. I knew I wouldn't have time to explore the fab countryside, but was still in a dilemna when I got into town about when to leave again, and as I was at the bus terminal, that was the time to decide. The basic choice was leave on the night bus, and miss what is meant to be one of the nicest routes in Ecuador, or leave very early and see it all. So 6 a.m. tomorrow I am hopefully on a bus to Piura in Peru, and probably from there straight to Lima. A bit too much nonstop travelling for my taste, but the views make up for it a lot.

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