Lost in Cuenca

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

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Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Like three lost children we wandered. Thom the Dutchman and I, laden with bags of groceries and Margaret, Thomīs wife, sauntering behind empty-handed with a vacant smile. We had taken a cab to a grocery store in suburban Cuenca, but had neglected to make note of where we were staying. Ellen knew; she was our navigator, but she had stayed back at the hostel to rest.

"Couldn't she have pinned the address on my shirt?" I thought. We knew the name of our small hostel, but that wasn't good enough. None of the cab drivers had ever heard of Hostel Macondo. And it wasnīt listed in the phone book. Neither Thom nor I mentioned the word ĻlostĻ as we wandered aimlessly. We barely spoke to one another, for we were men and men donīt get lost. We walked for two, maybe three kilometres. Cuenca is a maze of cobblestone streets and old colonial buildings. They all began to look alike.

Suddenly Margaret yelled, "The church! Look, the church!"
"Thatīs a church Margaret, not the church." I replied. "There's one church for every fifty or so people in Cuenca. And there are over half a million people living here."

A tear of frustration mixed with sweat ran down my cheek. Twenty or thirty minutes later my sweat evaporated. The sun was beginning to set and it was getting cold. Although Cuenca is only 300 km south of the equator, it sits high in the Andes at over 2500 metres. A ten degree drop in temperature over a thirty minute period isn't uncommon. I was wearing short pants, sandals and a Hawaiian shirt. I began to shiver slightly. Even Margaret, hands folded in front of her, was beginning to recognize that something was wrong. She looked at my face and mistook my anger and frustration for tiredness. She instructed Thom to carry some of my bags as well as his own. I tersely declined the offer and marched on at a quickened pace.

Suddenly out of nowhere appeared the guardian angel Raphael. Actually, it was Raphael the snail vendor, who we had met in the town square earlier that day. He wasnīt a guardian angel at all, but he would be our savior on this day. When we explained our plight, Raphael looked us up and down, mouth open wide. He didn't mention our stupidity, but simply led us to the flower market a few blocks away, on the edge of the town square. From there we found our bearings. It was only a short walk home.


According to Ellen's Spanish teacher, the Swiss and the Dutch have the easiest time learning Spanish, while the Germans, French and English (Canadians and Americans included) have the most difficult time.

While in Canada smoking cigarettes is on the decline, young Northern Europeans are seemingly sympathetic to the tobacco industry. It's hard to find one of these blue-eyed blonds without a smoke in his or her hand.

Today I twitched nervously and caused an old barber with a straight razor to cut a big patch of hair off the back of my head. Then he had to drastically reduce the entire length to try to make it even. And damned if Ellen doesn't think it's the best haircut I've had since Burma. She says that I look like Steve McQueen.
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