Wednesday, August 13, 2014

And last but not least....Cuenca

The last place we decided to visit was Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This was our second visit, and it was just as nice this time around.  Lots of expats have decided that the temperate climate is worth the move to call this home.  With almost as many architectural masterpieces as Quito, Cuenca is notable for its walk-ability along the Rio Tomebamba which bisects the old part of town, and the charm of the well-kept streets and colourful paint jobs around the main square Parque Calderón. 

The old question of where to stay was solved by a guy that met us stepping off the bus.  He said he had a place on Calle Largo, the same street as the hostel I was planning on getting us to.  Suffice it to say that at $8/night/person he was charging too much.  Make a note – Hostel Pachamama is cheap but take a peek (and do the sniff test) before committing.  We hightailed it out of there for our second night, and for the remaining 4 days we stayed at Alternative House and Lodging.  While a bit noisy due to a central stairwell, it was REALLY clean, had excellent wifi, and was across the street from the Museo de Banco Central and on the bus line.  Perfect – we were glad to pay the additional $4/night. 

Cuenca is known around the world for the incorrectly named “Panama Hat”.  It really is supposed to be called the Toquilla Hat, as it's from the fronds of the Toquilla palm that the fiber is derived to weave the hat.  Everywhere in Cuenca you will find references to their claim to fame. 

The hat that has made Panama famous actually has its origins in Ecuador, and the finest in the world are made right up the street from where our boat is, in Montecristi.  Cuenca is known for adding the finishing details, and the place where the father of the Toquilla, Homero Ortega, started the first factory.   As one of our “must do” visits while in Cuenca, we got a tour of the factory, saw how it was all done, and vowed to return with the credit card to purchase.  It took 2 tries, but on our last day in town, we were able to spend a lot of money on our very own Homero Ortega’s. 

Our saleswoman was Homero's daughter
If it's good enough for's good enough for Johnny
We confess, usually we are pretty lucky with restaurants, as we use the trusty TripAdvisor as a resource but perhaps our wallets weren’t quite as flush as they needed to be in this dynamic city.  We did have a terrific sandwich along the Rio, but other than that, food was a bust.  Although…..

…we’ve now been traveling nonstop for 4.5 years.  The longer we are out, (and of course we are still in Latin America) the more difficult it is to be impressed with the touristy things we are doing.  The mountain bike rides we’ve done are great, the train rides…more so.  The ziplining, the dinghy excursions, the wandering through cathedrals, the ruins (am I really complaining about ruins?!) but by now we’ve seen a lot.  Where once we didn’t hesitate to jump at every chance to do something different, we are now finding ourselves being a bit more particular about what causes us to say “man, that was GREAT!!”, and are also becoming happy to just be on the boat.  This is not to say that we aren’t still loving what we are doing, but maybe it’s time to head back to the islands, the clear blue water, and to call marine life our closest companions.    



  1. Great post, guys. We also really liked Cuenca (and the hat factory was very cool....regret not springing for a couple!!!). Know what you mean about the touristy stuff as well.....takes a lot to get us jazzed more than just enjoying life aboard!!!!

    1. We love following your blog too, Adam, as you and Cindi are our inspiration for all the stuff upcoming. We hope to start making for the Galapagos in November, as long as our FP long stay visa application comes through.