Monday, November 16, 2009


Thursday evening, my family piled into the car and drove from Quito south to Riobamba. It was cloudy on that ride, and it was as if we were in any other part of the world, one would have no idea that some of the biggest mountains in the world loomed above us only miles away.
We woke up early and drove all morning down to Cuenca. The day was clear and warm, and the views enormous. Patchwork hill after town-dotted valley led us along their curved roads the whole way, and we were fortunate to arrive in the city with some daylight left.
After a stint to see about extending our visas, we tucked our things away in our beautiful old hostel, and went exploring. I especially enjoyed the old architecture; the brick and adobe buildings with pealing or weathered paint leaning in slightly over the narrow cobblestone roads were just what I love the most about old towns.
There is clearly a heavy Spanish influence in the town's decorative carvings and building design (above and below), but the people in and around the small city are very Ecuadorian, and it was not unusual to see Indigenous dress (colorful skirts, white fedora hats, long-braided hair, and ponchos) right alongside neatly put-together outfits of the latest Quito fashions.
The next day, we visited the big museum in the old Banco Central, which was full of interesting history of the city and Ecuador in general. There were gorgeous artifacts, detailed descriptions of the spiritual life and ceremonies of the early inhabitants (including the shrinking of heads, elaborate dances, and oral histories told in the form of poems), depictions of dress, artisan works, and building techniques, and finally a explanation and map of an Incan ruin which was located right behind the museum. We of course went out to take a look.
The ruins were mostly rebuilt, but it was neat to walk around in them anyway. We found later that you could see them from quite a distance.
That evening, we went up to a high hill on the south side of the city, and watched the sun set as the lights sparkled on below. (It was from this spot that you could see the ruins.) We noticed that unlike other cities in Ecuador, this one had very few high-rise buildings, and almost all the roofs were still red-tiled. The city has been well preserved as its own entity, functioning somewhat autonomously from the central Ecuadorian government due to its location in the south, and possibly also due to its success at supporting itself. (Perhaps because of the four rivers which run right through it.)
It was a lovely place to visit for a weekend.

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