Friday, March 4, 2011

Goodbye Ecuador!

So, we left Baños to head south to Cuenca, Ecuador´s third largest city. We travelled with a new friend, Bigi from Switzerland, and promised to stay in Cuenca for a few days so we could celebrate her birthday with her. In Tyrone and Lydia fashion, we got her a fun birthday present that she says she will ¨never forget¨!!

We made our way up to this Cuencan ¨mirador¨ to get a good view of the pretty colonial city.

The streets looked much like those in Quito, but there wasn't as much hustle and bustle, which was nice.

There were many beautiful old buildings, including this cathedral in the main square.

The inside of the cathedral is decorated in ornate gold.

Cuenca is the birthplace of the "Panama Hat", so we decided to make a day of it by shopping for hats. Tyrone found this nice 'ol cap and wanted to buy it... luckily I convinced him to move on (and told him he could have that hat once he retires)!

We then decided to check out the Homero Ortega hat museum where we learned all about the panama hat-making process. It can take from one day to many months to weave the hats, depending on how fine the material is and how skilled the weaver is. The hat is initially weaved into a bell-shape and then later bleached and/or steam-pressed into the desired shape and size. The hat that I am trying on below took around 3 weeks to make and cost $260! We were even shown a hat that took over 6 months to create that cost $1,500! Because I fell in love with the hat below, but could not afford it, the shop-keeper had an identical hat with a lesser-quality weave custom made for me on the spot for around $25.

Cuenca has many unique museums, including a small antique musem/home lived-in by an eccentric elderly couple. They had many dolls, old sewing machines, ancient kitchen equipment, etc. that were all very interesting to look at.

They also had a pretty little roof-top garden and a yard full of pigeons and chickens - in the middle of the city!
We visited another museum next door that was extremely different. It was a goth museum decked out in gruesome pictures of monsters, devils and nudids... And the washroom had an extremely interesting tap that we had the pleasure of using!!

After Bigi´s birthday celebration, we were pretty sick of the city life, so we headed further south to a highly recomended little town called Vilcabamba. This little town is famous for its long-living inhabitants, who apparently hold the record for some of the longest living people on earth. It is supposedly common for people to reach the age of 100, and believed that someone there even lived to age 135! Studies have been done on the area to find out why Vilcabambans live so long, and it is attributed to their fresh, mineral-rich water.
We stayed at a funky lodge a small trek outside of town in an adobe house. The trail into town was quite interesting, as we had to cross a rather decrepid bridge on the way!

The lodge is surrounded by a series of hiking trails that were mapped out by the owners. One of the owners is a botanist and she marked all the different names of local plants along the trails!

Tyrone at the top of the mountain, checking out the view of the river below.

There were tons of butterflies ("mariposas" en español), snails, stick-bugs and other little creatures on the trail.

I even found myself a nice coffee bush. All I needed was a roaster, grinder and coffee pot!

There were tons of flowers on the trail, too, this one being one of our favourites!

I even heard a Who during one of our hikes!

Our adobe hut was equipped with a little kitchen, so we made our own breakfast for the first time on our travels. We had locally grown coffee, a fruit salad (Tyrone picked the pomegranite off a tree himself!), and a lady next door had baked some tasty banana cake.

After some wonderful hiking, rest and relaxation in Vilcabamba, we decided to head further south and cross the border into Peru. Here is the last photo I snapped in Ecuador whilst we were on the bus:

We hope that our previous and current blog posts have helped to show you that Ecuador is an extremely wonderful country full of rich culture, wonderful people, beautiful landscapes, and adventures not to be missed!

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