Thursday, August 27, 2009
Churched out and about in Cuenca
The jewel of Ecuador. A beautiful colonial city. That’s how Cuenca was described. Unfortunately we had to wait to check it out. Over breakfast one of the staff members told us that the cheaper room was available but it wasn’t ready to move in. So we waited and waited and finally moved into the new room just before noon. The room was smaller and we were now sharing a bathroom but it was half the price and for that we liked it twice as much as the other. Now it was time to find out what made Cuenca so special.
Today was market day so we headed to the market but it didn’t look like much was happening. So we pulled out the guidebook to check out these beautiful sights. What the guidebooks kinda forgot to point out was that the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca was really a beautiful colonial city of churches. Now we appreciate a good church but after 5 months of beautiful colonial churches we were churched out. And there were far too many to remember their names or which was which.
We found reprieve in the museo de arte moderno. Not only was it free but it was quite good. One of the most interesting was a photographic display by 12 latino artists – they were all brought to Madrid or Barcelona (I’ve forgotten) to shoot their view of the city and the 12 different styles and takes on the same city were interesting when viewed side by side. But the coolest piece looked like a black and white photo but was actually a piece of shadow art. Nothing cures the old church blues than some nice modern art.
Our next stop was the pharmacy – another colonial church polar opposite. Adrian had wrenched his shoulder trying to carry his backpack with the shoulder strap rather than the back straps and was now paying the price. So we were on a search for some ibuprofen. An English-speaking doctor standing in line stepped in to help us translate our order. His translation sounded a whole lot like ibuprofen with a Spanish accent, i.e. he added an o at the end. But we were thankful for the help. And we left, bypassed more churches and dropped off the disposable Galapagos camera to be developed.
With all that modern stuff out of the way, it was time to go back in time again. Way back in time to see some Incan ruins. We walked along the river past the old mansions and old bridges consulting our map every so often to make sure we were headed in the right direction. At one stop, a friendly man saw us and crossed a busy street to see if we were lost. Nope, well not yet anyway. And of course about 5 minutes after we declined his offer we reached a dead end road. We were at the rear of the museum complex but couldn’t get any further thanks to a tall chain link fence. We retraced our steps and tried a different turn and ended up at the entrance but were turned back by the guard to go buy a ticket at the museum. However, there was no one at the ticket booth and another guard told us we could go into the ruins and then come back and buy our ticket. So back to the first guard who grudgingly let us in and then seemed to follow us as we walked through the ruins.
Pumapungo were the ruins of an old Incan town and the site was big but thankfully the signs were in English. There were the old religious buildings, the farm terraces and an old medicinal garden and even an aviary full of very loud birds. It was a lot of walking and by the time we returned to the museum neither Adrian nor I were really in the mood but since it was included in the tickets we were now able to buy so we gave it a looksee. It was a repeat of what we’d seen at other museums and we quickly walked through.
It was time to walk back but first, ice cream and picking up the Galapagos photos. I felt like we hobbled for the last 20 minutes. We’d completed a circle and a half of the city and too many kms to count which our feet were eager to remind us at every step. It would have been nice to relax at the hostel but the bar there was now in full swing. The music was pumping and it was full of people celebrating the end of the week. Our new much cheaper room was unfortunately a lot closer to the music (probably the reason for the cheap price). We dug out the earplugs (don’t leave home without them) in anticipation of a tough sleep and then decided to head two doors down to the other hostel for dinner. It was much nicer and more chill and they had a three hour happy hour with tasty drinks. So we enjoyed a tasty dinner and many caipiriñas our new favourite drink there. Then it was back to our hostel. The earphones worked well enough that we were able to get to sleep – it could have been the caipiriñas too. Cuenca may have been the town of churches but our hostel was definitely not as quiet as a church mouse.