Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Road Trip To Cuenca

Today is the day we leave for our final destination of Cuenca. We will be spending the remainder of our trip there as we explore the town and the culture. It has been our intention from the beginning to concentrate the majority of our efforts into learning all we can about this beautiful town. All of the research that we have done prior to our trip has led us to believe that Cuenca is definitely a place we will want to investigate for our future endeavors.

The men had to drag Mother and Myself kicking and screaming from the Luna Runtun, but after they got us into the car and on the road to new destinations the whining died down to a trickle. As we left town Carlos drove us across a bridge over the most incredible canyon that through time been forged out by the raging river that ran through it. As you can see it was a looooong way down and not for the faint of heart.

Canyon Of St. Martin

One of our stops along the way was at an old train station that had been turned into a base camp for mountain climbers. It was there that we saw how the Tagua Bean is carved and turned into lovely pieces of sculpture and jewelry. The beans are inside of a fruit and must first be dried for six months prior to carving them. Once the bean has been dried, the hard outer shell is then cracked open and the bean is extracted and placed on a machine that rotates the bean as the Artisan uses many different tools to carve and form the bean into the desired shape. Once the bean has been carved it is then polished with some of the original shavings. The Artisan then applies a wet pumice mixture to bring a beautiful sheen to the piece. Once the bean is finished it looks and feels just like ivory.

Tagua Bean Artisan

Our next stop was in the town of La Balbanera were we toured the oldest church in Ecuador dating back to 1534. The church was built with Inca stone and was quite small as churches go. I found it amusing that above the virgin there was a neon sign with her name written in lights. There had been many repairs and updates over the years as the church had been damaged by earthquakes, but a lot of the original stone still remained.

Oldest Church In Ecuador

On the way in to Cuenca we encounterd  a lot of rain and fog. There were times you could barely see four feet in front of you, but Carlos our fearless driver forged on. Our original plan had been to see the Inca ruins, but the rain and fog put an end to that and we decided to just drive straight on through to Cuenca. Since Carnival was ending all of the shops and restaurants were closed, so we dug out the snacks out of the back of the vehicle and ate our lunch of chips, salsa, peanuts, roasted corn and trail mix on the go.

After a six and a half hour drive we finally arrived in Cuenca where we checked into our Hostel in the heart of the city. Our hotel owner told us about a wonderful restaurant  around the corner and where we ate a delicious meal. We had the most patient waiter, who was happy to help us any way he could, laughing with us the whole time as we mangled the language beyond recognition many times reverting to our own rendition of sign language.

Our Waiter

I ordered a sauteed trout encrusted in almonds with fresh steamed veggies and Rod and Mom had Paella while Bob chose a filet. The prices of food here are amazing, even in the finest hotels and restaurants. After dinner we returned to our Hostel for a good nights sleep and ready to hit the streets the next morning. Tomorrow would be our last day with Carlos and after that we would be on our own. We feel like baby birds being kicked out of the nest in order to learn to fly.

This Beautiful Paella Dish Was Only $8.95

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