A lot happened in the past week and so blog will be coming in two parts. Since there was an Ecuadorian holiday the same day as Columbus Day (very unrelated), my girlfriend Lindsay took some time off to visit Ecuador. We decided to check out one of Ecuador’s more historic cities, Cuenca. We’ll be splitting up stories from the trip, so make sure to check out her blog post for the other half. There were two locations near Cuenca that we wanted to visit, the Ingapirca ruins and Cajas National Park. I’ll be covering Ingapirca, and Lindsay’s post will cover Cajas. Before I go into Cuenca, I want to discuss the meal of the week, Fritada. This is a very typical dish containing large pieces of fried pork and plenty of sides. Fritada is usually served with avocado, a plantain, mote (a grain that tastes similar to large pieces of cooked corn), and llapingacho, which is a potato-patty with cheese. Like many dishes here, it is heavy and goes great with Aji sauce. It’s a dish you’ll see everywhere, and I know we’ll cross paths again.
On to Cuenca, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This city is a very popular location for expats from the United States, and it is easy to see why. It doesn’t have all the calamity that comes from being a capital city like Quito: people seem calmer, I’m not constantly worried about getting hit by a car while crossing the street, and there are no extremely tall buildings…unless you count some of the churches in the area. The streets look like they came out of a fairy tale, and we had little trouble finding our AirBnB right near the Parque Calderon in the heart of the city. Once we were shown our apartment, we were warned to keep an eye out for the cat that lives in the apartment complex, Pancha. Pancha was a very nice cat, he just liked to try and sneak in people’s rooms when they weren’t paying attention. I’d like to say we were never duped by Pancha, but he got in one time and ran around for a bit until we were able to catch him.
We started the morning off joining a free tour city. They quality was as great as the price and was conducted in whispered Spanish. We left a few minutes into it after finding a nearby tourism center. Once there we learned about some highlights in the city, as well as how to get to Ingapirca. After navigating a crowded bus station, we found our way to a bus that would take us to Ingapirca in about three hours. We were not 100% percent we were going the right way, but Lindsay loves practicing her Spanish, and confirmed with every single other passenger on the bus. Plus, the ride through the mountains was beautiful. After eventually getting to a part of the countryside where the cows may outnumber the people, we made it to the city of Ingapirca.
The ruins are the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador, and are located in a nest of hills giving great views for miles. Once arriving, our guide Angel took us through the ruins to explain the sites to us and explain some of the history. It is considered to have been a religious site, and many ancient skeletons are found in the area. Angel even said his friend found an Incan skeleton in his backyard only weeks ago. He also said his friend was attacked by a poisonous flower. Angel said a lot of things, but he sold his stories well.
The most preserved part of the ruins was the Temple of the Sun. The Incans position the structure to function as a sundial, and could even tell the months according to the sun’s position. The stones holding the structure together were perfectly stacked, not even a knife or a needle could fit through most of the cracks. One other cool part was a trail that takes you around the ruins to the face of a nearby mountain. To put it simply, it’s side of a mountain that looks just like a face. Pretty cool. It was kind of late by the time we were finished, and Angel set us up with a friend to drive us home. Definitely worth it, the driver knew some shortcuts that took an hour off the ride.
The next day was Cajas, I wont say much here but it the views are like no other. I’ll put a couple pictures below, but make sure you check out Lindsay’s blog for the full story of the trip.
The real day of adventure happened Monday morning when we got to the airport, the plan was to take an early flight so we can have another day in Quito….however that idea didn’t last long. Our flight was cancelled, the next flight wasn’t for 12 more hours and that one wasn’t likely to happen. Re-arranging a cancelled flight is tough… re-arranging a cancelled flight in an small airport with no upcoming flights in a language you don’t know well is NOT FUN. Thankfully Lindsay knows more Spanish than I do, and we were able to secure a free bus ride to the coastal city of Guayaquil to catch a late-afternoon plane to Quito. Not the most ideal travel plan, but we made lemonade out of the situation by exploring Guayaquil for a few hours. It is the country’s most populous city and it was the Independence Day celebration there. Can’t complain about an impromptu parade viewing and a walk across the city’s famous Malecón, a waterside walkway which holds many of the parks, gardens and shopping centers in the city.
While it was an exhausting day, a free trip to Guayaquil isn’t a bad consolation prize. It was tricky to find a restaurant open late the night we got back. After some exploration, we found pizza place. No matter where you are in the world, pizza always tastes great.