Day 8: Vilcabamba to Cuenca

Staci and I met at 8:50 to head up to the spa for our morning massages!  The resort is beautiful & the spa had excellent ratings, but we weren’t sure what to expect for $37.  It turned out that our one hour sessions were amazing!  If I had to post a tiny complaint, it would be that the room was a bit cool.  Most places here don’t seem to have any heat or AC and since we chose an early start time, it was slightly cool in the room.  No worries!  We enjoyed our relaxing massage & headed down to breakfast.

Like every morning in Ecuador, the restaurant had fresh squeezed juice and eggs.  These have been a staple at every restaurant.  The juice here is so good.  Often times we can see someone in the kitchen using what looks like an oversize citrus juicer, manually pressing our fruit into juice.  We have had a lot of papaya juice, along with other varieties of local jugo.  We ate eggs sunny side up on the patio & prepared to head off to Cuenca.

We had some pretty significant elevation changes ahead again.  The day would range from 5,013 ft. to 11, 283 ft. above sea level.  I loved the instructions for today – “the first part of the day will be warm until you pass through Loja”.  Great!  I look up at the map to see when we might need to add layers.  WOW – just 39km down the road, that’s 24 whole miles before it will cool off!  I decided I should just go ahead & put on an extra layer.  We have great gear & as long as we wear the right stuff, usually riding is pretty comfy.  We’ve been lucky with the weather so far.  We hit a few tiny sprinkles late in the day, but thankfully no real rain.

Today was one of my favorite days for people watching.  I wish I had stopped to take more pictures of the people working the fields.  We passed through the town of Saraguro, where the Saraguro people were brought to Ecuador in the 16th century from Bolivia & Peru by the Inca mitma system.  They were relocated here to colonize the region.  They still speak their traditional Quechua language and dress in traditional clothing.  One of our guides told us they dress in black because they are still mourning the death of their ancestors when they were killed by Spaniards.

In the pictures you will see steep hillsides that look like patchwork quilts.  There are tiny patches of fields all over the steep hills.  In many of the pictures I can see farmers and cattle when I zoom in.  Just walking up the hills would be a serious workout and the farmers carried tools and crops up the narrow paths to work.  One of my favorite pictures today is of a group of ladies working a garden next to the road.  Their children are with them & one woman was working with a baby on her back.

We stopped along the side of the road to watch a man hand making bricks.  Like everyone else we have approached, he indicated that it was ok for me to walk around and take pictures.  He said he could make 1,000 a day.  He wasn’t firing them, just stamping them out.  We walked around and looked each station.  The bricks are surprisingly light weight.

Across the road from the brick maker there was a great pull out area to take some pictures.  The hillside was steep so we played around taking pictures & video.  You can see Shawn try to push me down the hill in the video!  For those of you concerned that Rob doesn’t smile, this video includes a great laugh from him!

Today we saw so many children walking along the highway alone or in small groups.  Some were wearing school uniforms, others were just hanging out by the roadside.  We spent quite a bit of time in the country, but when we were in town, there was a lot of traffic.  I have some good photos of the traffic jams maneuvered through!

For lunch we had a traditional lunch of soup, chicken, and rice.  I think our total bill was $3.50 since we shared a meal, plus 2 Cokes.  The restaurant was located on the town square and there were lots booths set up with ladies making beaded jewelry.  I bought a couple of necklaces and a hummingbird that was a key chain that I am going to convert into a Christmas tree ornament. We always buy ornaments when we travel & although all of the towns are decorated for Christmas, we never did find ornaments for sale anywhere.

Part of our route today took us on the Pan-American Highway.  I snapped a pic of the GPS of us on this famous highway!

Most of the items were $3 to $5.  We had been told that we should haggle to lower the price at the shops.  The necklace bargaining went well & I ended up buying two of them.  I couldn’t decide on the hummingbird, and I ended up getting scolded by the elderly lady working the booth.  My Spanish isn’t very good, but my comprehension is improving rapidly since barely anyone speaks English.  She didn’t want to take $4 instead of $5 and told me that it was very cheap for me.  VERY cheap.  I paid the $5.  Quite a few times on this trip we paid more for things than we probably had to, but the average wage is less than $300 a month & $1 buys a lot more for the people of Ecuador than it does for us!

Arriving in Cuenca we had a little trouble finding our hotel.  The entrance is several stories down, the hotel is built on a cliff.  The road going to it looks more like a paved walking path across a bridge, so there was a lot of debate if we should cross it initially.  We got to the hotel gate, but didn’t see the buzzer, so we wandered through the one way streets above to get to the front door.  There isn’t really any parking up at the top, but we found a little pull off area so Staci & I could go in & get directions.  Thankfully she & I were able to stay inside and one of the hotel staff hopped on the bike with Rob & rode down to the parking area with them.

This hotel was beautiful!  Our entire room was glass so we had an amazing view.  The sunset was so pretty & the warm wind blew right into our room.  I assumed the bathroom windows must have been one way mirrors since the shower wall was also clear glass from the waist up.  Not only was an entire wall glass, but we had a huge skylight in our bathroom so the room was full of natural light.  When we got down to our bikes the next morning it was obvious that all of the windows were just plain glass.  There was a nice view into our shower…..

Dinner in Cuenca was one of our favorites!  Shawn & I had fondue at Fondue Garden and later we walked the quaint streets around Hotel Victoria.  Our fondue included beef and mushrooms.  We shared a meal & two sides which was still too much food.  BUT – when the waiter asked us to have dessert, we made an excellent decision & said yes!  It was a tiramisu de maracuya.  They used passion fruit instead of coffee.  It was fantastic!!  In addition to being delicious, it was also beautiful!  It came out in a terracotta pot with a small herb and 2 gooseberries on top that made it look like a potted plant.    I am going to figure out how to make it! We liked Cuenca!

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Cuenca

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Tiramisu De Maracuya

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Fondu Garden Cuenca

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Waiting on FOOD!

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View from our hotel window at our bikes parked below

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Sunset View of Cuenca from our room

 

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One of many walking paths up the hillside

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Just a bit of traffic

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Temper tantrum in Ecuador!  LOL!

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Walking to school alone

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Steep hillside shenanigans

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View from our room at Hotel Victoria

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Cuenca

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Sugar Cane & Farmers

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Cuenca

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Cuenca

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Another child walking alone on the highway

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This woman was one of many we saw carrying huge bags of grass

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Nice region near Cuenca

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Street or walking path?  Street!

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Farmers

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Street or walking path?  Street!

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Bricks for sale

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Juggling for cash at the stop light

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Sovereign Dogs

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Leaving Madre Tierra Eco Resort

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Children going to school

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Hand made bricks

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Most green houses had tomatoes or roses growing in them

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Rolling around on the hillside

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My favorite picture of the day

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Farmland in Ecuador

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Tiny fields up on the steep hill

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Cheese!  With a random cow in the background

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Horse Parking.  The bus picks people up along the road.

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Earthquake damage

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Saraguro

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Saraguro

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Madre Tierra Eco Resort Vilcabamba

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Staci & I in our hotel room

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Lunch

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Chicken soup for lunch

 

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