Hello again and welcome to story time, today about Cuenca.
Cuenca is south of Guayaquil and was originally planned to be a stop inbetween Peru and Guayaquil. For time reasons however we postponed it for later. We arrived in this more cold and highlandish town in the evening, still wearing shorts and tank top, when everyone was wearing winter hats and jackets.
Cuenca has a beautiful colonial old center which is surounded by a river and high wall (reminded me a bit of the singel in Utrecht). Our hostel was just a block outside of that wall, Mallki Hostel (pancakes breakfast!). Since we had spent most of the day in the bus or plane from the Galapagos islands we were starving and luckily we did not have to search long to find restaurants. From indian to mexican, japanese or arabic food you can find everything. Cuenca surprised me a bit or maybe it was the neighborhood, but people looked and dressed very european. I did not feel like in Ecuador but more like in Spain or Italy…
By the way if you allow me this quick intermezzo: To find a bus to Cuenca was not an easy thing. I got used to entering a bus terminal in Peru where everyone is screaming all the possible destinations you can travel to, which makes it easy to find the right bus. In Guayaquil the terminal is huuuge, 4 floors high, endless corridors looking more like a shopping mall. When we first got in we only saw clothing or phone shops; people we asked sent us all into totally different directions so we can now say at least we saw most of that big terminal. What you should know is that there is one corridor a bit hidden from the main entrance where all the bus companies have their little booths. This terminal is so big that there are different gates spread over the three upper floors where you can step into the bus, depending on the bus company. Once in the bus it’s very typical in Ecuador for people to come in and sell sweets or other things, not without a long speech beforehand… That’s when we realized we were out of Peru. The ride to Cuenca was very special however! At one point the bus climbed a mountain and underneath us we had an ocean of clouds combined with the sunset… unreal, I tell you guys.
But let’s go back to the reason why you started reading this post. What did we do in Cuenca? Well basically looking for a laundry place and walking through the old center. There’s plenty of beautiful churches and the cathedral. Cuenca is a very artsy town with many wall paintings. We were there on a saturday afternoon and the vibe was nice, reminded me of a sunny sunday afternoon in Zurich, when everything is closed and people meet for a drink or gather for a small outdoor event in some corner of the city. We spent some time at Plaza San Sebastian where a girl did some performance art. We passed a metal/hard rock (not sure, not my specialty) concert and people painting more walls. Somehow the streets were really empty though which gave me some kind of nostalgic feeling. In the main park kids had gathered to train breakdance and next to the cathedral a bohemiam chic pop-up market had been organized. You get the picture I hope 🙂 Once the sun went down we could enjoy all the christmas lights that were set up around town and the countless sweets that are typical for Cuenca.
In conclusion, Cuenca is chilled and pretty, has national parks nearby and a cool vibe. Definitely worth a visit!