This past weekend Tim and I traveled to Cuenca, Ecuador. We decided somewhat at the last minute that this would be a good weekend to travel: I’m still on vacation from the CEC and Tim was able to shift his schedule around so that he could take off Friday and Monday morning. So on Wednesday we found the email addresses of some Ecuadorians who we met in Madison when we volunteered at MESLS. We arrived in Cuenca around 9am Friday morning and checked into a hostel, dropping off our bags to be a little lighter for a stroll around town. Our hostel was an old colonial style house with central courtyards.
Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador, but the historical section of town is a very manageable size and the whole city is about the size of Madison (a welcome change from the 2 million plus population of Quito). Most of Friday we walked around the city looking for a place to eat lunch. (We hadn’t get seen our WorldTeach or Ecuadorian friends to get the scoop on where the restaurants are). So eventually we gave up and ate at a chain restaurant, it was ok and the food was safe, but not exactly what we were hoping for. Friday afternoon I took a nap alongside one of the rivers that runs through the city while Tim read his book. It was nice to be near clean water and hear the sounds of a shallow river. We found a very nice restaurant to eat dinner at Friday night and then walked around the city some more. Saturday afternoon we met up with our Madison friend, Pablo, who had a car. He drove us to an overlook of the city and gave us a great car tour of the city. That night he made us dinner (accommodating the problem eaters and everything) and we had some great conversations in Spanish.
Sunday morning, Pablo, Rosalina (another MESELS student) and Rosalina’s finance Sebastian took us to El Cajas which is a nature reserve a short ride outside of Cuenca. Sebastian also brought along Rosalina’s pet wiener dog, Pancho. Pancho had a great time. There are hundreds of lagoons in the reserve and lots of hiking trails. We hiked around one lagoon (Pancho pretty much did it twice since he would run ahead and run back). After our hike we had lunch at a gorgeous restaurant in the mountains. The restaurant had huge windows on all sides with views of the mountains and small waterfalls/fountains. Pablo, Rosalina, and Sebastian were extremely generous: they sneakily paid for our lunch and wouldn’t let us contribute. They also bought us two beautiful ceramic mugs that are one of Cuenca’s trademarks. Our last night in Cuenca, Pablo invited us to stay with him and he gave us ride to the airport the next morning.
We really enjoyed being outside of the big city, with friends and a well-loved dog. It was a wonderful trip. We are looking forward to seeing them again. Another MESELS student, Masaki, from Japan is moving to Cuenca for 7 months to learn Spanish. He was one of our favorite students when we volunteered so we hope to see him when they visit Quito.