Trip Start Dec 12, 2010
156Trip End Ongoing
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The bus wasn't leaving until 11am so we had a nice lie in, a tasty breakfast and one last chill out session in our cool hostel. Just as we were about to leave, Si was bringing the bags down... We heard a strange noise. It was an alarm echoing around the valley... Like they used to sound in the war... Which meant evacuation due to the volcano. What didn't help either was when we looked outside, we saw a helicopter carrying a massive load of water towards the volcano. Great... Just before we're about to leave and the whole town has to be evacuated. Luckily Marco, the hostel owner, made a couple of phone calls and found out it was actually a drill. But with the noise we heard the other night, made it a little scary and exciting. I asked him if he'd ever been evacuated, he said no – the last time was in April, when he was on holiday. But the town left, nothing happened, returned to their homes. But when they woke up the next morning, the whole place was covered with a thin film of ash
We made it to the bus station, but were told that there would not be a direct bus as advertised, we'd have to go to Riobamba first then change to Cuenca because of road closure. Again, not sure if this had anything to do with the volcano or not.
The bus left at 11am, we piled on and left Banos – all in one piece. Or just about. Because once we'd driven about 30 minutes out of town, the bus turned off the main tarred road and onto a gravel road that looked like we were heading into a quarry. All the locals on the bus didn't seemed phased by this at all, so I'm presuming it was a normal thing.
I'm sure glad that we didn't have any volcano activity today, because this road had a clear view of it and you could see the paths where lava must've flown... The drops off the narrow gravel road didn't help the nerves either. Si was keen to get up and look at the drops, me... not so much. Just closed my eyes and hoped we got to the end.
Well obviously we did, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this. The road eventually turned to tar again, and then the scenery became breathtaking as we could see the snow capped mountains and volcanoes around us
Arrived in Riobamba and luckily there was a bus leaving straight away, so no waiting around. Jumped on and headed further south – enjoying an even more stunning journey. Ecuador is nothing, if not one of the most exquisite places I've ever seen. Really beautiful. Some more scary cliff edges though, but our bus driver, although fast, seemed to handle the roads quite well. (OK, he didn't crash, so he must be good right?)
Arrived in Cuenca in the evening, shared a taxi with a Dutch couple, who we've been bumping into since the jungle, to the hostel and luckily they had a bed available. We were both starving and found a cheap but very tasty Italian restaurant nearby, so had a yummy hearty meal and a glass of wine before crashing back into bed. It was certainly colder here – high altitude again!
Wednesday 19th October:
Unfortunately we had to change hostels this morning, so walked around and found another one close by, that was just as nice. Grabbed a quick bite to eat and then went to the bus station to look into our next onward journey – we're heading to Peru tomorrow night
Back in the old town, and spent the afternoon strolling around, falling more and more in love with Cuenca. It really is a gorgeous city. Walked along the river and the Lonely Planet said something about some Inca Ruins nearby. Well, if this is what Machu Picchu is going to look like, I'm not that keen on doing the hike. It looked like a pile of rubble, or a stone wall... Not very impressed by our first Inca Ruin. But then, it is a tiny piece of the ruin in the middle of the city.
We went to the main plaza and sat in the sun just people watching for a while. Loving the little Ecuadorian ladies – all dressed up in there traditional gear. Could've watched for hours. Also saw some kids dressed up, doing a dance for a TV camera. What made this plaza even more wonderful was the fact that its surrounded by two gorgeous cathedrals. Known as the new and old. They call it new, but it was built in the eighteen hundreds... So not really that new. But both of them are lovely to look at.
We had a chilled out afternoon at the hostel, catching up on loads of random things and went out at evening – getting a little lost without our map... This place feels like a labyrinth. The churches still look fantastic at night, all lit up.
Thursday 20th October:
Catching another night bus tonight, which meant more time to walk around Cuenca. There weren't any tours or places as such that we wanted to go to, just loved walking around the city
One thing Cuenca has in abundance is fantastic churches. You'd think you'd get bored of seeing all of them, but no – its great to just sit in a plaza staring at these incredible pieces of architecture. We also strolled to a market, selling some wonderfully weird things, but getting to see women dressed in colourful traditional outfits. I'm loving the Ecuadorian hats! Most of them seem to have a feather stuck in them as well.
Had a tasty lunch then relaxed at the hostel until it was time to catch our bus. The sunset was great colours again – must be a near the equator thing – all the sunsets here have been great.
Taxi came to collect us, and soon we had checked onto our bus – which is like an airport with security – and were heading onto country number 25! Peru!