Cuenca - following the Galapagos is a tall order

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
Trip End Dec 17, 2008

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Where I stayed

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stayed for one more night in Guayaquil after flying from the Galapagos as I didnt get back there until nearly 4pm & I was feeling a bit rough and too tired to face a further 5-hour bus trip to Cuenca the same day. I felt rather sick and dizzy as if I was still rolling around on the boat so I just grabbed some quick food and an early night to catch up on some sleep. Felt a fair bit better in the morning so after a lazy morning and a hearty almost English-style Ecuadorian breakfast (sausage,bacon,eggs,toast,coffee - absolutely splendid ! ) in a rather upmarket cafe I then caught the bus onwards down to Cuenca as I head into Southern Ecuador on my way to Peru next week. The journey went through the magnificent Cajas National Park at the end so some of the views were superb. I spent one full day checking out the city of Cuenca on Saturday. Being highly rated by guidebooks , seemingly rather popular with travellers on the Ecuador circuit and nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage centre my expectations were high but to be honest I didnīt really get that inspired by Cuenca. I think maybe it suffered from being the next stopover after the amazing Galapagos islands but I found it hard to find justification why some travellers seem to stay around here for an extended period of time. Itīs a pleasant and aesthetically pleasing enough place without offering really major WOW factors to place it high on my list of favourite places. As per many colonial cities in Latin America the architectural highlights are the cathedral and numerous churches in the centre of the city. Cuencaīs "new" cathedral (built from 1885) is a huge and imposing if not exactly pretty building made from red brick but with three rather splendid domes which are hidden away from view when you look from the main plaza and dont exactly seem to fit with the rest of the building. Itīs certainly a splendid building inside and arguably more impressive from the inside than the outside. Several other churches are not too far from the central cathedral - San Francisco , Santo Domingo , San Blas and possibly my favourite , which was actually a much smaller little church called El Carmen de la Ascunsion with a little flower market in the plaza in front of the building. Pity the poor couple that were getting married at Santo Domingo , who had a builders fence around the churchīs plaza as the backdrop to their photos ... wonder if they knew it was going to be under renovation when they booked the church. Cuenca is set alondside a river, the "Rio Tomebamba" and there is a nice little walk along the path and road by the river a few blocks down from the hostel where I was staying. Went to the market "Mercado" in the Plaza Rotary but it was disappointing - it seemed the main market building & area were fenced off as some sort of building site and there were just a few unimpressive stalls nearby. I havenīt had a big party night out for couple of weeks so I did take the chance to enjoy a good night out in Cuenca. Hit a few bars & clubs with Rob , the other British guy who was on my Galapagos boat and a gang of other travellers we met along the way , mostly American girls who have been volunteering in Ecuador. Nothing compelling enough to warrant a longer stay in Cuenca so I got up pretty early on the Sunday morning and caught the bus for the five hour trip down to Loja as I head south towards the Peruvian border 
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