From Baños to Loja

Trip Start May 17, 2009
Trip End Jun 16, 2009

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Where I stayed
Hostal Majestic

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Friday, May 22, 2009

We left Baños early Wednesday (the 20th) morning to get a start on the journey down to Cuenca. We started with a two hour ride to Riobamba which we both used to catch up on some sleep. Not much to report on Riobamba because we spent all of 20 minutes standing on a dusty street corner waiting to catch our Cuencan Charriot. The bus just stopped, the conductor shouted ¨Riobamba, Riobamba¨ and we got off; no bus terminal or other people from the bus to help guide us, just a run down market on the outskirts of a town that is supposed to be quite lovely. After a short wait spent searching for something edible, we saw the bus to Cuenca rumbling down the street. We waved our hands and just like that we had two seats in the back of the bus for a 6 hour ride.

Along the way, we were floored by the stunning mountain vistas we were able to see out the window. I should note that once again, the ¨highway¨we were traveling on was a 1.5 lane wide, half paved-half unpaved path along thousand foot cliffs high up in the Andes. Many times we were above the clouds which provided great photo opportunities. The going was slow, but we couldn't complain once we saw the condition of the road. In a few places, the bus had to stop for 20 mintues or more to allow traffic going the other direction to come through stretches under construction.

Finally at about 5pm, we reached Cuenca, a charming little colonial city founded in 1577 by the invading Spanish conquistadores. The entire town is linked by cobbled streets and one-way avenidas. The buildings are mostly white-washed stucco with orange clay-tiled roofs. Other than a few museums which we didn´t have time to see, the city´s main attraction is its collection of picturesque churches and plazas. We had a suprisingly tasty dinner in Cuenca´s version of a fastfood restaurant. I had spit-roasted chicken and Taylor tried ¨Churrasco¨. As a dish, the manner in which churrasco is served varies between something that resembles a steak sandwhich usually accompanied by papas to a full-sized dinner. Taylor received the dinner version, consisting of a pile of rice, french fries, and steamed vegetables, topped with two fried eggs and the thin steak, smothered in a red sauce with onions and peppers. 

After a failed attempt to find a sports bar to watch game one of the Easter Conference finals, we turned in early to do some research about routes into Peru. During our research, I read a passage in my book that said Cuenca´s nightlife is virtually non-existent except Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights when people go out late and return sometime around sunrise- Information that would have been useful before we started our search for the sports bar...

We rose early again today, not by choice this time. The building next to the Hostel was residential and apparently, in Ecuador, even apartment tenants are permitted to raise livestock- including ROOSTERS! Sure enough, at 4am, we started hearing the glorious morning wake-up calls of my previous night´s dinner´s relatives... Talk about Karma.

We had a breakfast of freshly baked delicacies from a local bakery and searched for a bank and casa de cambio to get Soles for Peru. Found the bank, got cash. Found the currency converter, did not get Soles due to a recent surge in tourists changing money for Peru there. We went to the bus terminal and hopped on a bus to Loja, our next city.
We now find ourselves in Loja. Not much to this southern city, except a few pretty parks. We are basically overnighting here and leaving at 6am to head to Màcara first where well will be escorted across the border into Peru, then on to Piura a few hours past the border. Talk to you next from Peru! 
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