Sunday, October 27, 2013

Around Cuenca...

From Cuenca we made a couple of day trips to the Sunday markets. First was Gualacea: A short 1 1/2hr bus ride to the northeast takes you through a winding, ribbon of tarmac, at the base of towering mountains, past many small villages and one humongous water park. Arriving on a Sunday to visit the market, I was surprised to find a town teeming with activity. The market, found on the side of the mountain, was not as I thought it would be, instead it was all fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, chickens, and an eating area with the prerequisite whole roasted pig: No crafts to be had. And this was supposed to have weavings.

Instead we found a beautiful park with a walk along the river, at the base of mountains on either side. The river walk was used as a by many for relaxing with many statues,   walking, playing, picnicking, and selling. The river however, was used for ambiance, clothes washing and the odd doggy bath.  Walking along we came up on an old building  that stymied us until we got to the other side  a bathroom, and old bunker? No an old but still used bandstand.  A covered bridge and a swinging walking bridge offered access to either side. 

In town, sitting on a park bench looking at the front of the church, I was amazed to see a statue, not of a saint or the usual religious people but of a priest on horseback, wielding a sword in a fighting manner.  It took awhile and a few people being questioned but we eventually found out that it was a statue of the priest who led the battle to get the Conquistadors to leave. And how about a hurst just sitting and waiting to be used? 
Gualacea was interesting and well worth the fun bus ride and the walk around town.

 A trip to the museum on the following Saturday took us to see Cuenca from the time before the Incas to today.  The museum is build on the site of a massive archeological site and has been excavated and at times, rebuilt or refurbished. It explores the many peoples who have inhabited the area and looks at the differences in the many indigenous peoples of Ecuador. The Incas even had gardens of microclimates representing the various climates of their lands.  I even found some quilting motif inspirations.  It is not just in museums that you see antiquities here in Cuenca. Along the roads and sidewalks you can come across signs of the early settlement, such as this step going into an older building: 

We had quite a bit of rain during our weeks in Cuenca and the rivers running through town show it. This is shown by a walk along the riverbank looking at various murals. 

Then to SigSig:
SigSig was another little town farther south from Gualacea, in the mountains. As we left town on our way, we happened onto a local pork for sale.  Yes, they roast them on a spit and then simply tear the meat out with their hands,and sell it by the pound, if not in a dish. Gives us flashback memories to the festival that we went to in Romania where they butchered and then cooked a hog in an open fire. This town had the bus station at the bottom of the hill and we had to walk all the way uphill just to get into the center of the town The town, like Gualacea is founded in a river valley and goes up the sides of the mountains on either side of the river. The market is up the mountainside, giving a view of the town. Again being Sunday, market day, everywhere we went was busy.  The one thing that we were interested in was the Panama hat factory, but alas it was closed. Guess who provided the town with the factory?  Yes, the Canadian government. And of course, they give thanks and put Panama hats on the Virgin and Baby Jesus over the doorway.  All of these little towns give the impression that they are booming. The houses are being rebuilt and modernized and many new ultramodern ones are being built. Where the $$ are coming from is anyone's guess but even the young people seem to have a lot discretionary funds.

As we run around the countryside, sometimes you just want a little something of home. Starbucks this isn't but it was as good as what I used to get in Colombia at Juan Valdez coffee shop.