Yesterday I went to Gualaceo and Chordeleg, two small neighboring towns about one and a half hours outside of Cuenca. The most recent pictures below are of Gualaceo, a lovely spot with a river and the most massive fruit market I’d ever encountered, with little stands piled high with vegetables that only this climate can encourage. Chordeleg was a jewelry town—shop after shop after shop of gold and silver and this and that. (I was sorely tempted for a minute by these good-sized Bvlgari imitation earrings, but I’ve never really been into the idea of owning fakes—I want the real thing, and if I can’t have it, then it’s not worth bothering with.)
I ventured there with these travelers I’d met in Baños, two retired cousins from Kentucky (the Kentucky Boys) and a retired couple traveling from Vancouver (the Tall People, for they were incredibly long). I suppose I can take this opportunity now to discuss what it’s like traveling solo, which I was at first very nervous about (I realized I was nervous once I had spent my first night alone in a foreign country where my grasp of the language is 4th grade at best, and that’s generous). When I met two American girls in Quito on my first morning, I was quick to latch on—they were nice, after all, and had the same plan I did, and hell, we had a language in common. I travelled with them to Baños, and I stayed there much longer than they did. I met a lot of wonderful people there, but ultimately, no one was heading the way I was, and after nine days, Baños was over for me. So I’ve hostel hopped and stumbled around mostly on my own, and it wasn’t until I was staring down at my map and up again at the street signs in Cuenca that the Kentucky Boys hollered for me across the way and invited me out for dinner. Since my three days in Cuenca, I’ve seen them and the Tall People plenty… and what a group we must make!
But that’s the way it is, I’ve noticed. You drift in and out of each other’s lives quickly on the road, and it’s far more common for travelers here to be open and have random conversations than, for example, in the U.S. And ultimately, I’m perfectly content on my own, leaving when I want, moving at my own speed, and doing just as I please.
Still, it’s rather nice to be with a group of people when, for instance, you want to try cuy.
Breathtaking colonial architecture, tidy cobblestone streets, and suave, fashionably suited business types bustling about and appearing for all the world like they are quite enjoying themselves. Walking through the streets here, it’s almost easily confused for some historic European city, so finely crafted are the facades and so relaxed the tempo. I sit at a European style cafe at this moment, some atmospheric French music playing and film noir prints surrounding me.
I’ll admit: I am enchanted. The damn romantic in me wants to stay in Cuenca for the next two months, or more than that, to find a job and never leave.
You’ve been seeing a lot of photos here of streets and alleys and doors and architecture. I’m rather taken by the cityscape. I haven’t seen anything quite like this yet in Ecuador. When I’m not surrounded by mountains, I’m surrounded by buildings that stand stoically next to each other, tall and imposing for their grandeur, but not overbearing like a modern city. If these buildings could speak, they would probably dispense sage advice in voices laced with dust and marble, recounting stories they’ve watched pass them on street corners and in doorways.
- I did not, in fact, under pack. Retracting earlier complaints.
- Depending on the situation, my Spanish is either sufficient or downright awesome.
- I am much, much more popular here with men than in the United States, except I take men here even less seriously.
- It is best, when strange men begin inquiring—or even women for that matter—to make up a boyfriend (so far, I have had seven different wonderful boyfriends—all with different, high class jobs—and one lousy boyfriend whom I took care of out of pity).
- Just because a full body massage is $25 for 85 minutes does not mean I need one. Does not.