Saturday, February 10, 2018

Cuenca and hiking at 13671 feet part 2

My fourth day in Cuenca was the most adventurous. I went to Cajas National Park which is at high altitude and is known for its hundreds of lakes. We started at laguna LLaviuco and took a 2.5 kilometer walk around the lake. We got to see alpaca and llamas which was pretty cool.

This used to be a Brewery

We then went up to the highest point in the park, 3 Cruces at 4167 meters or 13,671 feet. Luckily we only got out and walked around. It was literally dizzying. 

We then went down to 3800 meters and took at 5.5 kilometer hike up and down hills. I was beautiful and breathtaking (no really it took my breath away). After about 3 hours we had a nice trout lunch. Trout were introduced to the park and have killed some native plants and fish. You can now fish unlimited trout if you desire. 

On my last day in Cuenca I toured a Hat museum (more like a hat store) and got to see how they finish the Panama hats.  Which incidentally originate in Ecuador. This is the tale I was told...When the Panama canal was being constructed Ecuadorians worked on the construction and brought their hats with them. When President Roosevelt went to visit the canal, he was given a hat. He like it a lot and wore it home to the states. When he was asked about the hat he said it was from Panama and so it was then called the Panama hat. 

I also went to the Pumapungo Museum which is a natural history museum with an interesting exhibit on the different ethnic groups in Ecuador. Also really interesting was the part on the Shuar who used to shrink heads. It was a tastefully done exhibit. However the shrunken heads on exhibit were incredibly creepy. When the Shuar killed enemies, to block an evil spirit from using its powers, they severed their enemies' heads and shrank them. The process also served as a way of warning their enemies. The museum is also on an Incan site. 

Cuenca and hiking at 13671 feet part 1

We had time off the week before Carnival and I headed to Cuenca. It is in the Southern Andes about 50 minutes by airplane. It is full of 16th and 17th century architecture and red tiled roofs. 

It is also known for the rivers that run through it. 
let's pretend my finger isn't in this picture
I stayed in a lovely hotel in the old city center called Hotel Los Balcones. It was quaint with a clean room, good services and a nice daily breakfast on the terrace. 

The food in Cuenca was really good. A Pedir de boca was a nice restaurant with asian inspired dishes. I had my first really spicy meal since I moved to Ecuador. I had a noodle dish it was pretty tasty. Next time I'd get rice noodles though. 
spicy noodles

Sofy GLocal was a lovely restaurant inside the inner courtyard of an old building. The walls had art by local artists and lots of plants.  The food was really good. I went back twice. 
smoked trout, capers, and cream cheese open faced sandwhich

olive and anchovy tapenade on toast served on a hot stone

seabass encocado
By far my favorite meal was at El Mercado. It was a really upscale dining experience at really good prices. 
grilled octopus

slow cooked pork shoulder on cauliflower puree
Los Tiestos was a family style restaurant that had dishes served in clay dishes (cazuelas). Dinner started with about 10 different tapenades and bread. It was a really lovely dinner.   

I arrived on Sunday and after a short nap and lunch I went on a bus tour of the city. For only $8 it was a nice way to learn about the city and see how the city was laid out.  According to the tour there are enough churches to go to a different one every Sunday in a year.

It was really warm and the sun was strong. 

The next day I took a tour to Gualaceo and the jewelry town of Chordeleg.  It was a small tour (just 3 of us). We stopped first at a Guitar makers shop outside of San Bartolome above the Valle de Santa Barbara. His guitars were beautiful. I wish I played. 

He showed us how they make the inlay.

This cuatro is made out of an armadillo. Supposedly they find dead animals to make the instruments.
Then on to Chordeleg where at one time artisans made jewelry out of silver and gold mined in Ecuador. It is not just a plaza filled with jewelry stores. I enjoyed the window shopping and the church in the town square.
Then we headed to Gualaceo and enjoyed a meal of roasted pig. It was so good. 

We decided to stop at Ecuagenera to see their orchids and learn about how they hybridize and propagate orchids. 
A post shared by Leemurr (@leighmurrell) on
Finally we stopped at Ikat Gualaceo to visit artisans who dye and weave beautiful shawls by hand. The dyes are all natural.