|Sunday 1st June 2014
Banos to Cuenca, Ecuador
Up early this morning - it rained most of the night. After breakfast we left Banos at 7:00am and headed south through green mountainous countryside - we passed through many small towns and stopped at about 9:00am in a town where local indigenous people were leading sheep and pigs to (probably) market. These local people are very short and were all dressed in the local costume which, for women, is a very pleated skirt in red or yellow and a hat like a bowler - similar to those worn in Bolivia. They also drape a blanket around their shoulders for warmth. The men generally wear a poncho. We continued through beautiful country where the road ran along the edge of the mountain and the drops were 300-400 metres down to green fields and rivers in deep valleys. This country is quite exquisitely lovely in places, but it seems to rain so much - hence the greenness. We stopped for lunch at Ingapirca, an Incan ruin, spread over many hectares. We walked around with a guide who explained what all the buildings were (or what they thought they were all used for). It was cold and windy and a bit wet there so it made for a fairly unpleasant visit. After lunch, we drove on and arrived in a very wet Cuenca at about 5:00pm. We are staying in a really nice hotel for the next two nights. Went out for dinner in the town tonight at a nice restaurant and then, after several attempts, managed to get money out of an ATM on the way back to the hotel. To bed around 11:00pm.
Monday 2nd June 2014
Up later today and after breakfast we went out shopping in the town. We went to the Panama Hat Factory and Museum which was quite interesting. We bought a hat each and they are very nice. We just have to get them home..... Apparently Panama hats were originally made here in Cuenca and were only called 'Panama' hats because they were shipped out via the Panama Canal. The factory were busily making a World Cup series of hats in appropriate country colours but didn't have an Australian one - they were mostly for South American countries. We then had lunch in a local restaurant and continued to walk and looked at lots of shops. Mostly the souvenirs here are very much the same from one shop to another. There is not a great deal to see here - mostly churches - although the main square is very attractive with a number of trees and flowering shrubs. Back to the hotel for a while then we went back out for an ice cream and a bit more shopping. It was cold all day and a bit drizzly. This town is quite OK, very friendly. It is the third biggest city in Ecuador with about 300,000 people. It is also one of the most popular places in the world for people to retire to (believe it or not) and there is quite a few thousand overseas retirees living nearby in one suburb - a policeman we spoke to in the square told us that the locals call it Gringolandia and don't like the fact that so many foreigners live here. We are going out again for dinner tonight to a local restaurant. Tomorrow Peru!!