Cuenca and surroundings

Cuenca is one of the biggest cities of the southern mountain range of the Ecuador. It has a Spanish architecture and tradition in open markets. On my first day in the city, early in the morning, I could see the commemorations of Pichincha battle day. It was a national holiday. One more time many people in uniform and armed in the central square. The ceremony did not last very long; it was about an hour, there was a band and politicians speech. It is incredible the amount of armed military one can see in Ecuador.

The city market is famous in the region, mainly on Thursdays. The colors of the clothing and from the fruits and vegetables make the place a great rainbow. I spend almost the whole day there, talking to the people and photographing.

I decided to visit Ingapirca, the only Inca ruin preserved in the Ecuador. This place was previously inhabited by Cañari indigenous, the Incas had conquered them and used the place as main point linking Cuzco to the north villages. They had an excellent system of messengers, in different points these messages stayed waiting for the message, they received and ran up to the next point where another messenger ran a little more. It was fast and efficient.

I also visited the Park Nacional Cajas (4000m above the see level). It’s near Cuenca and, due to the altitude, it is a lot colder. It has more than 200 lakes and diverse trails to walk. I went there by a common intercity bus (Cuenca-Guayaquil). Since the road crosses the park, you can ask to get off when you get there. The problem is the way back, the buses come very fast and don’t stop. I was waiting in a empty road for almost two hours. The only bus that passed didn’t stop for me, it drove by fast to Cuenca. Then a gray-haired man who was hiking there offered me a ride. It was an interesting trip, he told me stories of local traditions. He was a retired psychiatrist who had great interest in the indigenous culture and beliefs.

On the weekend I visited two markets, one was in the city of Azogues, a small town that gets crowded on Saturdays for the market. And another was  in Sigsig, on Sunday, it is known as the best place to buy “panama hat”. In the cooperative women sell their almost ready hats to be finished there and then sold for a higher price to tourists and shops in Cuenca.

Cuenca was my last stop in Ecuador. From here I go to Peru (Tumbes), a 6 hours bus trip.

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