Wandering in America del Sur

Ecuador-Travelogue  |  Travel time: July 2005 - March 2006  |  by Allison Webb

The Days of the Children, A Tale from Cuenca

Leaving Riobamba we readied ourselves for a 6 hour bus ride sin bano (without bathroom) as was par for the course here in Ecuador! The landscape turned from middle mountains to high altitude with the bus lurching up misty roads that snaked through the Andes. Sometimes it was better that we could not see the edge of the road since the drop offs were so steep and sheer as we perched on the edge of the precipice over valleys of brilliant green below. Towns and villages appeared out of the haze, but mainly it was the different colours of green that gave the area its stunning beauty - a beauty that could compete with just about any road in the country or continent for that matter.

It was all going splendidly and we had passed our halfway point until we stopped in a small town, not to pick up passengers, but rather to replace our, not one, but two, flat tires! Fortunately it gave us an excuse to the use the bathroom, but as all the locals began to bail and flagged down the next bus headed the same direction we began to lose faith. Time went ticking along as it does in Ecuador and we started to question our sanity of just sitting on the side of the road. But never fear, one hour later, 2 bags of chips, one bathroom stop, 2 sips of water to prevent another bathroom stop, 2 chocolate bars and one long conversation with a father and son combination backpacking team from England, and we were on our way. Onward and downward ...

It seemed that we had reached the pinnacle awhile before in the fog which made it all that much more atmospheric and prevented any hyperventilating at the poor state of the road and the safety of the buses! Sometimes it's just better not to know! Coming down our visibility began to improve and so did the socio-economic conditions it would seem. New and large houses appeared on excellent agricultural land, farms joined their neighbours plots and life appeared to be much better than in the higher altitude, but yet, we were still at over 3000m! The drive would just continue to be gorgeous with farmland, green and red all the way to Cuenca.

Popping off the bus in Cuenca we hailed a taxi, found a place to stay at our lowest price yet, and headed out to check out the city. At an elevation of 2500m, Cuenca may be Ecuador's most liveable city. Gorgeous in its architecture, it has an affluence not seen in other places which also means that it is safe and relaxed. The people are full of smiles because life is good and we were able to exhale as we walked through its streets.

We enjoyed our 3 days there just wandering and soaking up the atmosphere from the main square to its most striking landmark, the cathedral with its blue domes to its street life with markets of flowers and produce galore. And as we walked, we tried to dodge water balloons, sometimes successfully and sometimes not! Yes, we both got soaked at different times on the same street lured into complacency by its relaxed atmosphere! Yes, the kids here made no exception for foreigners - carnaval was for all!

As the city where the Panama hats are made, even if their name is a misnomer because they are all made in Ecuador, there is lots of good shopping for straw crafts, gold and silver jewelry because of mines in that area and wollen goods as well. So it not hard to wile away your days between the churches on every corner, shopping, and good restaurants. And soon you realize that the relaxed lifestyle has taken hold of you as well ...

On our last day there, in search of an internet cafe, we stumbled upon what we first thought was a parade. Children decked out in all kinds of elaborate costumes, riding horses to the church and then tying them up so they could stop to eat cotton candy, chips and all kinds of sweets, and proud parents with their cameras in tow, made for a party atmosphere. And only in Ecuador could you just parade down the street, stopping all the traffic! Fortunately for us, as the only foreigners in sight, it was the chance of a lifetime to see, first hand, the children's festival. We started to talk to some of the children and then to some local photographers who were lusting after Kurt's equipment. The parents urged us to take photos as we wandered amongst everyone. It was one of our most favourite interactions with the locals - so spontaneous, unplanned and fun!

And after not being able to take any photos of people in other places in Ecuador because they refused to have their photos taken, this was almost too much. Not only did the children pose, but the whole event was just full of joy as they ate, laughed and smiled for the cameras, their friends and families and were happy to include us in their celebrations. Watched them until they had ridden out of sight, standing in awe of the happenstance that had crossed our path, knowing that we couldn't have had a better day had we planned it and leaving with amazing memories of a great city.

Our all too familiar pose, waiting for the bus, Riobamba enroute to Cuenca

Our all too familiar pose, waiting for the bus, Riobamba enroute to Cuenca

Overlooking Alusi enroute to Cuenca

Overlooking Alusi enroute to Cuenca

The stunning landmark of Cuenca, the new cathedral with its blue domes

The stunning landmark of Cuenca, the new cathedral with its blue domes

at the children's festival, Cuenca

at the children's festival, Cuenca

typical street in Cuenca

typical street in Cuenca

Papas anyone? Chips Ecuadorian style

Papas anyone? Chips Ecuadorian style

More kids at the festival

More kids at the festival

Ah, the stuff of carnaval - water guns and silly string

Ah, the stuff of carnaval - water guns and silly string

With some new friends at the children's festival, Cuenca

With some new friends at the children's festival, Cuenca

In the hat shop

In the hat shop

The original Panama/Ecuadorian hats

The original Panama/Ecuadorian hats

Typical sweets - we saw this all over Ecuador and no, it's not ice cream, but we weren't sure what it was!

Typical sweets - we saw this all over Ecuador and no, it's not ice cream, but we weren't sure what it was!

Kurt with the local photographers

Kurt with the local photographers

Posing at the children's festival

Posing at the children's festival

The band, Cuenca

The band, Cuenca

Horse brightly decorated at the children's festival

Horse brightly decorated at the children's festival

church door, Cuenca

church door, Cuenca

© Allison Webb, 2005
You are here : Overview The Americas Ecuador Ecuador-Travelogue
The trip
 
Description:
My trip through Peru before heading to Chile to work for 6 months and then travels afterward in South America
Details:
Start of journey: Jul 05, 2005
Duration: 8 months
End of journey: Mar 02, 2006
Travelled countries: Peru
Chile
Argentina
Uruguay
Ecuador
The Author
 
Allison Webb is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 15 years.