Tena to Macas to Riobamba to Cuenca


New Cathedral

New Cathedral Cuenca

I arrived yesterday in Cuenca at about 4:00 a.m. after a long and difficult bus ride of almost 17 hours from Tena through Macas and Riobamba. Bus connections in South America can be frustrating and take longer than expected especially when you’re traveling in the Andes. However, for long-term travel in South America buses are the best transportation choice and most of them are reasonably comfortable.

IMG_0008

The scenery along the way was dramatically beautiful with patches of fog rising in between the mountains, volcanoes, and dense jungle vegetation. There were interesting indigenous faces on the bus. The last few hours of the ride were so cold – I wished for one of the blankets worn by Cañari Indians as part of their attire – now I understand how important they are on a trip through the Andes!

Cuenca is a clean, gorgeous city with a population of close to a million and beautiful cobblestone streets, cathedrals, parks, rivers, and amazing colonial architecture. It’s very European and could be a city in Italy or Spain.

Canari Woman

Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city after Guayaquil and Quito. It’s is a popular place for expatriates and retirees who enjoy safety, a low-cost of living, and a pleasant, moderate climate. The population is diverse and it’s a comfortable place to hang out for a few days. The food in Tena was limited but Cuenca is the total opposite with a variety of excellent reasonably priced restaurants.

Cuenca Building

“Cuenca’s full name is Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca. The dominant features of the city’s geography are also the source of its name; In Spanish cuatros rios means “four rivers” and cuenca means “basin”.

Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca is in a basin made by the confluence of four rivers.” The four rivers originate in the Páramo of Parque Nacional Cajas to the west of Cuenca and are part of the Amazon river watershed. They are the Tomebamba, Yanuncay,  Tarqui, and Machangara.

Cuenca Main Square

Cuenca Main Square

I plan to stay here for a week before continuing on to Machala, Podocarpus National Park, or Peru – not sure which yet. Another place of interest is the Mangahurco / Loja area where the flowering of the guayacanes trees takes place about this time of year.

IMG_0011IMG_0033IMG_0024

Cuencanos have produced more notable writers, poets, artists, and philosophers than anywhere else in Ecuador. The culture and history of the Cuenca is well represented in its spectacular museums.

Cuenca Panorama

Cuenca nightlife is also active with ample bars and restaurants and excellent traditional and international food at reasonable prices. As the capital of Azuay Province, Cuenca’s economic importance and well-preserved history have earned it the honor of being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust Site.

Guayacanes Tree

Guayacanes Tree

Cuenca is an architect’s heaven. Many of its hotels are converted colonial homes and mansions with beautiful architecture and furnishings.

Cuenca

Artist’s Drawing Tomebamba River Cuenca

Most of Cuenca’s sites of interest are churches, parks, and museums . El Cajas National Park is popular with outdoor enthusiasts for hiking and trekking. Bicycling around Cuenca is exceptional with thousands of miles of scenic seldom visited trails.

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda Chilean Poet-Diplomat

Cuenca’s history began long before the arrival of the Inca and Spanish. “The city was originally a Cañari settlement called Guapondeleg and is believed to have been founded around 500 AD. Guapondeleg translates into – land as big as heaven.”

Less than half a century before the conquistadors landed, the Inca conquered the Cañari in a bitter struggle and occupied Guapondeleg and the surrounding area. Like most of the Ecuadorian Andes, Cuenca has a mild climate year-round. The days are generally warm with cool nights. The average temperature is in the high 60s. Rainy season lasts from mid-October until early May when mornings are typically sunny and afternoons cloudy with light showers. We had showers early today but the afternoon was lovely.

Cuenca Skyline

Cuenca Skyline

More later….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.