After our train ride to the Devil’s Nose in Alausi, Sanne from the Netherlands, Soya from Korea and I left Alausi at 11:30AM and we arrived to Cuenca around 4PM. There we said goodbye to Soya and we were not very keen on seeing her again. She had been pretty annoying that night and morning in the dorm, making a lot of noise, waking up everybody and, honestly, she was a bit weird. Our hostel, the Bauhouse hostel, was ok, but not the best. The doors, beds and floors made a lot of noise, breakfast wasn’t good and way too expensive, there were no power plugs for the upper beds on the bunkbeds and the hostel was very cold (not just the temperature, also the atmosphere). The staff was friendly, but not very knowledgeable about the different activities or the area. So I wouldn’t recommend it.
Our first evening in Cuenca was quite an adventure. The staff in the hostel had told us that there are two streets in Cuenca where you can find bars and restaurants and, after a while, we found a bar with a nice terrace. We had a couple of beers and some nachos there but decided to have dinner somewhere else. We had a lot of fun there and played «Where is he/she from?», a game where you have to guess where people in the bar come from. Usually, I’m pretty good at it but not this time: there was one couple of whom I was sure they came from Australia but (when we asked them) they told us that she’s from the States and he’s from Ireland and with the waiter I was sure he’s a foreigner because of his accent but it turned out he’s from Ecuador. Well, whatever, we had fun. 😁
We checked Tripadvisor for some restaurants and came up with 2 options for dinner: the Ale House or The Pub. The Ale House was much closer, so we went there first, but it was completely empty and they had no vegetarian option for Sanne, so we left and took a taxi to The Pub. Unfortunately, our driver didn’t know The Pub and he got a bit lost… When we finally got there, we discovered that it’s not a real bar or restaurant; it’s just a bar with a few tables and chairs outside of a private house. It’s very small and looks a bit shady, but there are no other bars around, so we decided to go in anyway. Later the owner told us that we had looked quite scared and confused when we entered, so it was obvious that we thought it looked shady. It turned out that it’s a very small and a bit weird place with really really good beer and great fries. The waiter had been speaking very fast and so we didn’t even know what we had ordered; it turned out to be 2 mini-pineapple-burgers (not my favorite but ok) with fries. The fries were so good, that we even ordered another portion. The owner was from Hawaii and he had moved to Ecuador many years ago. With a friend, they had dedicated themselves to brewing Belgian style beer and had opened their own bar. Their beer has already won a few prizes, even if it’s not completely legal. It’s illegal to import malt (I think, or hopp?) from other countries to Ecuador, which is what they’re doing. They also do theme nights with different food every day and half of their clients are expats. In Cuenca, there seems to be quite a big community of expats which is a bit weird: it’s a nice city but it’s much more expensive than other cities in Ecuador and South America…
The next morning, we met Moira and Sascha at breakfast. It was them who had recommended this hostel and we knew they were coming. After breakfast, the four of us went to the free walking tour, but after a short while Sanne had to leave: she had been feeling sick since the day before and it was getting worse and worse… It would turn out, when she went to see a doctor a few days later, that she had bacteria in her stomach and she had to rest for a week… Poor her.
The walking tour took us around the (small) city center and the guide was quite good, but the group was huge and he had to say everything twice, once in English and once in Spanish, so it took an eternity. Around 12:30AM, Moira, Sascha and I just left and went to the public market to have lunch. I had some really good papas locas; a dish of potatoes, mixed with veggies and porc and mote (some kind of beans) for only 1$; delicious! The public markets in Central and South America are awesome, you should definitely try them out if you’re there.
After lunch, I went back to the hostel to get my credit card and my passport and then I walked 20 minutes to the Banco Internacional. For the volunteering I was going to do a few days later, I had to deposit 500$ in this bank, otherwise they would not allow me to do it. I know, it seems like a lot, but if you read my blog entry about it later, you’ll see that it’s quite ok. Anyway, it’s a nice walk there, because you have to cross the university campus and it’s quite a nice campus, even if I felt like a grandma walking amongst all these young students….
Afterwards, I went shopping, trying to find the last items I needed for my volunteering: rubber boots, carabiner, gloves, sportswear, leggings. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to find these things in Cuenca; I had to go to 3 or 4 stores until I finally found boots and gloves and then, with Moira and Sascha who also needed carabiner, it took us over an hour to find those. When we finally had them, we were exhausted and, even though I was still missing stuff, we decided to give up and go for a drink. We found a very nice bar and ended up having each of us two very strong cocktails. Sascha and I had a drink made of red wine, rum, tequila, orange and lemon juice and it was absolutely delicious! 😁 When we left, we were quite tipsy; ok, let’s be honest, we were completely drunk. After a short break at the hostel to check in on our sick friend Sanne, we went to Jodoco, a Belgian restaurant some Belgian friends had recommended. I had been looking forward to this for a long time because my friends had told me that the owner is Belgian and that they have real Belgian food. Unfortunately, the owner wasn’t there, the beer was okay but not as good as at The Pub and the waiter was pretty slow and forgot half of our order… It’s a good thing I was drunk or I would have been pretty disappointed. My « vol au vent » was very good, but Moira’s and Sascha’s «Stoofvlees» – that was delicious – made them sick the next day… At some point, a group of women came to the square where the restaurant was and started a Zumba class. More and more women arrived and, drunk as we were, we joined in as well. It was a lot of fun and, on our way back to the hostel, we stopped on the main square to watch a bunch of kids breakdance. We had the best time and I had enjoyed this night a lot.
The next morning, Sanne, Moira and Sascha all stayed at the hostel, being sick, while I went early to the terminal to catch a bus to Las Cajas national park. It was about 45 minutes to get there and the view was spectacular. From the main entrance of this park, you have the choice between 8 different hiking trails. Like most people, I chose the first one: 4,2km, 3 1/2 hours. The weather wasn’t great, it was a bit rainy and very cloudy, but, apparently, it’s usually like that. In addition to this, a very cold wind was blowing and so, at the start of the hike, I was freezing. The hike was not very difficult, but the view was absolutely beautiful and my favorite part was the hike through the dwarf woods. I felt like being in an enchanted forest. ❤️
Walking slowly and taking lots of pictures, it took me a good 3 1/2 hours to do this hike. A few times, I thought I was lost, but I never actually was. I can only recommend you go there when you’re in Cuenca; it’s really beautiful.
When I finally got back to Cuenca – I had to wait 90 minutes for bus back -, I was frozen and starving, so I went to Happy Fries, had some delicious fries with (not so good) chicken nuggets (don’t get them, ever!), and then I went shopping. It took me quite some time, but, in the end, I found THE shopping area in Cuenca: Plaza 9 de Octubre; strange that the staff in the hostel hadn’t pointed me there directly… I found everything I needed and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon strolling through Cuenca.
That night, Shane also arrived to Cuenca, but he had had a bad bus ride and he was sick, so I went out for dinner just with Moira and Sascha. We went to a Steak House and I had a delicious burger. Hungry as I was after a day full of walking, I would have eaten anything. Back at the hostel, I spent some time with a nice Spanish girl and the guy working in the hostel, watching American Pie 2.
The next day, my last in Cuenca, Moira, Sascha and I went to Ingapirca, a famous Inca ruin in Ecuador, 2 hours from Cuenca. Honestly, the ruins were not worth going, they were very small and disappointing. Fortunately, it was Inti Raymi, a famous Inca festival, and we got to see some local dances and prayers. That way, it wasn’t a total waste of time.
When we came back to Cuenca, we had a late lunch/early dinner with Sanne and Shane and that’s it; the end not only of my stay in Cuenca, but also of the first part of my adventure, 4 months travelling from Mexico City to Ecuador.
Cuenca is a very nice city. It’s easy to spend a couple of days there, but, compared to the rest of Ecuador, it’s quite expensive and maybe it does not really deserve the status of World Heritage. Still, you shouldn’t miss it if you’re in Ecuador. 🙂