Even though Cuenca is a very nice historical city, where many expats decide to live, we came out of two other reasons. One was that it’s the starting point to visit Cajas National Park (see Michal’s previous posts here, here and here) and the other one was, that we wanted to meet our friends Lori and Eric, who were just staying there.
Our Saturday plan was clear – buy camping gas for our stove in one of many Cuenca’s outdoor shops, eat some lunch and meet Eric and Lori at 1:30 on Parque Calderón, go sightseeing with them and then later in the afternoon start hunting for cocktail happy hour bar.
Buying gas turned to be almost mission impossible. We only found one shop in the town center out of three listed on the Internet and they did not have the one we needed for our stove. We walked all around the center and looked in every sports or outdoor shops, but with no success. In the end we got it only on Monday in a very well equipped shop called Explorer in Mall del Rio shopping mall outside Cuenca.
After a nice lunch in local restaurant (hint – always ask if they have almuerzo or menu del dia in local restaurants – a preset lunch menu that it usually super cheap and very satisfying) we finally met Lori and Eric at the square. Isn’t it funny how happy one can be meeting someone whom he has not seen for just a week, and whom he’s known for just a bit over a month? Friendship gets to another level while traveling and not seeing your “old” friends for some time…
Anyways, we decided to go together to Mirador Turi, which is a viewpoint located in the south part of the city. We wanted to take an urban bus up there, but after quite a bit of walking Turi direction and waiting for some time at a bus stop, a nice woman offered to share a colectivo truck with us, so that we could get up faster and more comfortable.
You can see Turi with a white church on top of it from anywhere in Cuenca, so no wonder that the view from up there is breathtaking. Plus there are many souvenir shops around and some restaurants where you can rest and enjoy the atmosphere.
We wanted to take a bus for the way down, but got on one going to a wrong direction and ended up at the local prison. During visiting hours, I guess, because there were so many people around. We did not really want to hang around with friends and families of the prisoners, so we took the first taxi, that drove us safely back to the city.
Corpus Christi fireworks
And then the hunt started. And we were really successful, I must say. I can’t even remember how many bars we visited and how many cocktails we drank. But for sure there are bars offering happy hours until late night. Fortunately we went by Parque Calderón just in time the big fireworks started, so we can remember that megalomaniac show at least from the pictures. No, seriously, the show was something I’ve never seen before. There was life music playing, people in masks with fireworks attached to them walking around, and those huge fireworks towers of several levels in each corner of the square.
Last Days in Cuenca
No wonder that none of us was feeling amazing the next morning. I was actually the only one who made it to the meeting at the square before noon. So I went alone to see the city from the top of the New Cathedral.
In the afternoon Michal was feeling a little bit better, but still could not do anything more than slowly walk along the river Tomebamba (which is a very pleasant walk) and visit Pumapungo archeological site, where you can walk outside, sit on the grass and enjoy nice views and peaceful atmosphere. The walk made him feel even better, so we could finally try a typical cuencan meal Mote Pillo , which was, well, very similar to all other ecuadorian food.
Most of the Monday we spent shopping in Mall del Rio, where we finally got everything necessary for our trip and hike to Cajas. And we went for a last dinner with Lori and Eric to a colombian restaurant on Honorato Vasquez street. The food was not bad (honestly, Michal did not like his at all), but being in Colombia now, I can say that they can cook much better. Right across the street from the colombian restaurant, there is a peruvian one, where we had one of the best dinners in Ecuador on our last night in Cuenca.
After 4 days in Cajas we returned back to “our room” in Hostal Yakumama and spent 2 days just relaxing, wandering around (the main new thing we discovered was a Mercado 10 de agosto, where Michal just fell in love with their roasted pork and until the end of our stay in Ecuador did not want to eat anything else than “chanchito”), shopping and planning where to go next.
Interesting places and costs
- Mirador Turi – colectivo on top 0,50 USD per person, taxi from prison to center about 3 USD
- New Cathedral viewpoint – 1 USD
- Pumapungo archeological site – free
- urban bus – 0,25 USD per 1 ride
- Also see many beautiful churches and gorgeous street art
- San Blas square is not very touristy but has a nice atmosphere