Cranky in Cuenca
Trip Start Feb 06, 2011
20Trip End Jul 24, 2011
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Needless to say, much of the first day was spent trying to rectify the situation by speaking to the police and our Man in Quito – the Embassy. Without wanting to bore you with the details, it seems losing your passport with 3 months travel yet to go is not a smart move – and we were suddenly faced with having to alter drastically our itinerary
Cuenca is a very pretty city – all cobbled streets, white houses and many, many churches. Unfortunately just short of half way through our trip and perhaps precipitated by the theft we did get a major bout of traveller fatigue. This wasn’t helped by endless rainfall which made many of the sights and activities in the area more difficult to enjoy. We headed for one day to the Cajas National Park which offers beautiful, rugged scenery. Or at least it did for the first half hour until the skies opened and we were faced with torrential rain for the remaining three hours! After negotiating yet another mudslide masquerading as a path and falling on my bum, I did confront the fact that I really don’t enjoy trekking – and need to face facts!
A second trip to visit the picturesque mountain villages surrounding Cuenca – Chordeleg and Sígsig - also ended up something of a damp squib (and not just because of the rain). Instead of the artisan paradise of handmade jewellery we expected in Chordeleg, we discovered a range of stalls that sold mass produced tat and ostentatious costume jewellery. In Sígsig we thought we would see the famous Panama hat being woven – instead everything was shut because of Easter and, if we didn’t feel out of place enough, we were greeted with shouts of "gringos!!!"
Of course it wasn’t all bad! James and I particularly enjoyed a little museum which showed some fantastic pieces of gold and pottery from pre-colonial times as well as an extensive ethnographical exhibit
Shortly before we were due to leave Cuenca we also received the news that a Good Samaritan had found James’ passport and other documents which had been dumped after the theft. The bad news was that they were in a place called Machala, a town not that far from the Peruvian border – so a good 5 hours back the way we had come. Nonetheless it seemed worth the trip and we hopped straight onto a bus. Now, Machala is not a major tourist destination. In fact I can think of little reason for a tourist to ever go there! A little research revealed it is famous for one thing and one thing only: bananas. In fact the town has earned the dubious title of Banana Capital of the World. It embraces this title by emblazoning it on every available billboard and holding elections every year for – wait for it – the Banana Queen. Every little girl’s dream! Needless to say after picking up James’ passport and thanking our Good Samaritan profusely, we exited Machala as soon as possible and headed on our way up to Quito – this year’s Latin American City of Culture where surely our luck was about to improve!