Guayaquil to Cuenca, Day 15

Card players, Cuenca, Ecuador

Colonial Cuenca is a gem…Guayaquil bus station is huge – more like a shopping mall – and Christi and I were quite clueless as to how we would gain onward tickets to our next destination, the colonial town of Cuenca set in the southern highlands of Ecuador.  Thankfully, a Spanish-speaking friend from the MV Samba secured our passage and the soft start to our journey continues.

The scenery south-east of Guayaquil changes rapidly from industrial to farm land with many cultivated fields of bananas and irrigation canals that are home to hundreds of herons and a fair few hawks.  Cattle and horses are tethered and left grazing by the side of the road.  At other times we see small bush fires burning, but the passersby don’t seem overly concerned.  Construction and road repairs are rampant, dramatically slowing our progress.  As usual in Ecuador there are three lanes of traffic, but only two actual lanes on the road.  And frustrated bus drivers are some of the worse culprits.  As we ascend into the mountains, our bus driver begins to play chicken with the oncoming traffic, even overtaking on hairpin bends.  Deep fog in the mountains reduces visibility to only a few feet, adding to the overall ‘excitement’ value, while the precipitous mountain slopes we zoom around are dripping with vegetation for a truly Indiana Jones-type of experience.  The scenery remains spectacular as the road to Cuenca flattens out through Cajas National Park, with stunning views of alpine lakes and meadows.

At every stop along the way, street hawkers board the bus and ride a while attempting (quite passionately sometimes) to sell us their snacks, religious icons (now I know why) or in one case a bottle that contained some sort of universal panacea (ditto).  Despite it all we arrive safely in Cuenca and grab the last room at the hostel Chordeleg.  There’s still a little time to explore and we get wonderfully lost in the back streets of this gorgeous colonial town gazing at the incredible architecture and people watching.

Blog post by Roderick Phillips, author of Weary Heart – a gut-wrenching tale of love and test tubes

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