Thursday, June 26th, 2003 – Day 128 to Saturday, June 28th, 2003 – Day 130

Thursday, June 26th, 2003 – Day 128

I was up at 9.00am. I was tired and counted about five small cuts on each hand. My sides were also bruised from the harness. It was raining again and decided to move on. I stayed in town until 11.00am to have breakfast. I walked to the bus station to buy a ticket to Amato as there is no direct bus to Cuenca. It cost ,80US and took about 1 hour as it stopped all the he time. Anyway I had to wait an hour in Amato to catch an infrequent bus to Cuenca. It does not go from the bus station but a few blocks away (the company does have an office in the station). It was eight Dollars and left at 13.30pm. It was quite full as it was coming from Quito. The journey took eight hours and it felt like it. I was tired when I got there at about 9.30pm. I walked out to the road (cheaper taxis) and took a taxi for the 2km trip into town for 1.50US. I find that the Lonely Planet (2002 South American Edition) is about 25% out when it comes to costs in Ecuador. It came to no surprise then when me chosen hostal (4 US in the guide) was 9 US. I moved down the street to another hostal which was 4.50US per night for a basic room (but it was quiet). I had a bite to eat and had an early night in a lumpy (broken springs) bed.

Friday, June 27th, 2003 – Day 129

Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city, but it feels much more like a charming small town. UNESCO designated Cuenca a World Heritage Site in 1999. Once you’re here, you’ll immediately understand why. Much of the city’s colonial architecture remains intact. Even before the Spanish arrived here, however, Cuenca was the second largest city in the Inca empire (after Cusco).

Panama Hats–Here’s a newsflash for you: Panama hats are originally from Ecuador. In 1910, when the Panama Canal was being built, these hats became popular among the workers. These workers returned to the United States and called them Panama hats. But they have always been made in Ecuador: For generations, the indigenous people on the coast have been using local straw to create finely woven hats. The trade has moved inland, and Cuenca is now the major hub for the production of Panama hats”.

I was up and about by 9.00am. The NET connections are good here. Anyway I walked around for a few hours to get my bearings. There are some great buildings here and the city looks great (a rich part of the country). The streets are cobbled stoned and the roofs are all red tiled. The old center has scads of churches and homes dating from the 16th and 17th centuries lining its ankle-bending cobblestoned streets.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Cuenca – Ecuador – Catherdral (27-06-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Cuenca – Ecuador – Catherdral (27-06-2003)

For a bird’s-eye view of Cuenca, I walked up to the Mirador de Turi. It took my about 40 minutes. In Quechua, turi means twins, and from this sight you can see two twin mountains in the distance. The views were good. The weather is great (low 30s oc) so its nice to be back in a T-shirt. No need for my new sweaters. I must post them home soon.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Cuenca – Ecuador – View of town (27-06-2003)

There was a festival on that night which was good. Lots of fireworks and bangers. I got a bit too close as the fireworks here are great to look at but dangerous. Most are home made and are liable to go anywhere. They had pyramid’s of fireworks and people had them on wooden horses, figurines. They let dozens of massive hot balloonslons (balloons fired by hay). They were beautiful flewey flewm into the sky .. but one or two caught fire and down came hot wax on people (took one in the arm). The ballonns wee of all colours and they were preetty big.

Many of of the fireworks (about 25%) went off course and into the large crowds. They hit buildings and people. Worse were those small ones which were dumped everywhere and more often than not flew into the crowds. They lasted only 20 seconds but were super fast. One hit me in the leg. I shrugged if off until one whizzed past my face. I moved back but my leg continued to hurt. Looking down, I noticed my pants was smoldering. I went back to the hostel (five minutes away) and went to the toilet. The firework had burned through my pants (just below my knee at the back of my leg)a and burned me. There was a nasty black weld (about 3/4 of an inch). I cleaned it and the skin wasn’t broken. It was 11.00pm so I showed it to the woman in reception (I just wanted to show it to someone). She made me pore some pure alcohol over it (I think she was drinking it), and I had a sterile gauze as well. I covered it and went to bed. I can see why fireworks have been used as a weapon in northern Ireland and why they were banned , I had planned to go out but with the injury did not. It did not hurt during the night which was good, but the bed was very lumpy. Every time I moved, a spring underneath “thwanged”. I am going to put the mattress on the floor tomorrow night.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Cuenca – Ecuador – Fireworks. A hay fired ballon sets off. (27-06-2003)

Saturday, June 28th, 2003 – Day 130

I was up at 9.00am and checked my leg. It was fine. No swelling or infection. It wasn’t sore. When I checked my pants I could see a seven inch sorch mark and in the middle the place where the flame entered. I was lucky. Further down was another three inch scorch mark. Those fireworks go so fast, you do not know where they are.

I went to the market to see what was going on. The same old stuff, roast pig, sheeps heads, cows hoofs etc. After that I decided to get my hair cut. I went into the barbers and had a hard time explaining what I wanted (a number one). He was going to hand shave it with a razor!. His assistant knew what I wanted and proceeded. He was back and forth asking me lots of questions (not many foreign visitors her) and asked if I had any Irish money. I showed him a five EURO and told him I would call in later with a coin. Then half way through he takes out his expensive camera and starts taking photos of me like nobodies business. So there am I with the hairdresser and the owner is taking pictures asking us to stop and smile (as I said, he must not get any foreign clients). It was funny, and they did a good job. I feel like a new man and paid the two dollars.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Cuenca – Ecuador – Four cows hoffs for a pound. Weighting hooffs for a buyer. (28-06-2003)

Next I visited the Museo del Monasterio de la Conceptas. This is a small museum and it cost 2.50 US in. This former monastery is a classic colonial structure, dating back to the 18th century. The nun’s rooms are now all wonderfully curated art galleries; the theme is religious art. One of the highlights includes an impressive collection of gruesome crucifixes by local artist Gaspar Sangurima. It was a 40 minute visit. Most impressive were the religious art museums in Cuszo.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Cuenca – Ecuador – Museo del Monasterio de la Conceptas(28-06-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Cuenca – Ecuador – Museo del Monasterio de la Conceptas(28-06-2003)

I also visited the cathedral. It was started in 1880 and has yet to be fully finished. Nice but very dark interior.

To those at home, I weighted myself for the first time today. The results were:

Weight – 177.4 lb (12.67 stone) for height 1.82m (approx 6 feet) which was a result of 24.84. My ideal weight would be 22, while the “normal” range is between 19 and 25. So no need to worry, I must be eating well.

Nice article here about new border conditions between Peru and Ecuador.

The festival was in full swing again tonight. As far as I have learned it is the festival of “Saint Peter’s and Paul”. It is on the 28th and 29th all over the country. It was very colorful tonight when candle lit processions and statue carrying. They covered the ground with rose medals before the statue. They also had live bands at the church and more fireworks. Ive learned by lesson and stayed back. They also released about 100 ballons into the sky. These are lit up and illumunated by hay so they shine for miles as they drift into the sky. It was a wonderful sight. Some of these balloons are massive.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Cuenca – Ecuador – Saint Peter’s and Paul (28-06-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Cuenca – Ecuador – Saint Peter’s and Paul (28-06-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Cuenca – Ecuador – Saint Peter’s and Paul (28-06-2003)

Tomorrow is Sunday, so I hope to hop on a bus at the main terminal for Sigsig, Chordeleg, or Gualaceo. They all host lively Sunday markets where you can buy some very high-quality handicrafts.