My 3 weeks spent scouting Cuenca, Ecuador was enough to give me a feel for the city and enough information was gathered to make some major decisions about living there. In 3 weeks time, I walked close to 200 miles within a 2-mile radius of where we were staying in our AirBnB.
Thoughts From Bonnie
Gary and I were deep in sleep-deprivation mode, from a month of being awakened a dozen times per night by roosters, dogs, horses, church bells and burglar alarms. If we were to move there, we would definitely have to bring a white-noise-generating machine to block out the sounds of the Cotacachi nights.
High tea in the Andes Mountains? That sounds highly unlikely! Unlikely, yes, but not impossible. One fine Thursday, we visited La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa in Cotacachi for their weekly tea. La Mirage is a 5-star hotel on the grounds of a 200-year-old Andean hacienda. Their website is worth perusing, so you can see the photos of their beautiful offerings.
Afternoon tea takes place in the Pandora Lounge. It is decorated with carved furniture, Victorian paintings, art nouveau lamps, knick-knacks and even a carousel horse. Servers bring course after course of fine tea, coffee, crustless sandwiches, and one dessert after another. Gary and I were amazed every time another course was delivered on a silver platter. We spent several hours lounging, eating, then walking the lawns to watch the many peacocks strolling and displaying their feathers. All this cost us $20 – a pittance in the US, but a fortune in Ecuador.
Cuycocha is a 10,000′ high volcanic caldera containing a sublimely lovely lake, above Cotacachi.
For over a century, the lake has been called Cuicocha, or Cuycocha. “Cocha” means lake and “Cuy” means guinea pig, which is a common food animal here. (We managed not to eat any “cuys” during our stay. ) Our indigenous guide, José Antonio, explained that the real name for this lake, in Quechua, is “Kuychikocha” (kwee-chi-ko-cha) which means “rainbow lake”. As rainbows are not common in this region, a lake with rainbows is a sacred thing. The Spanish conquistadors apparently changed the name of the lake.
Click here for more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuicocha
My dental work is DONE!! So is Gary’s. Our Spanish lessons are DONE!! Finito! The dental work seems to be totally successful. Our teeth are now in relatively great shape, and our responsibilities are completed. We are free to spend our last few days doing whatever we like. This is our Ecuador journey so far.
We exercised our new dental work on some freshly baked cinnamon rolls and chocolate bread. Eating bread from the local bakers (panaderías) doesn’t seem to bother my digestion, here. Something is apparently different in the way the wheat is processed, or grown, or something along those lines.
In the US, one of my favorite pastimes is to hike with my dogs. Whenever and wherever possible, that’s what we like to do as a family. Here in Cotacachi, that hasn’t happened yet. Outside the town, the landscape isn’t filled with parks and trails as we have in the US. I understand other Ecuadorian towns have a better park and trail system.
Small towns in Ecuador each have their own unique specialties. Meaning, they focus on one craft and become a destination for that particular craft. We are staying in a town famous for it leather work, but there are other towns nearby and elsewhere in Ecuador that specialize in woodworking, weaving, pottery, guitar making, and more.
Cotacachi – Leathergoods
The most popular street in Cotacachi is Leather Street. That’s not the official name, it’s what it generally referred to because of all the leather shops lining the street. These shops are filled with leather jackets, vests, purses, pants, and assorted accessories, all, to my knowledge, made in Ecuador. The quality of these products is outstanding. You can buy a leather jacket in just about any color you can imagine. You can find leather shoes that are locally made. You can even watch them being made. It’s refreshing to see shoes made this way, and not imported from China.
Ecuador is a relatively poor country where most people cannot afford to own and operate a car or truck. Also, many of the towns and cities are very walkable. As a result, public transportation is abundant here. Buses and taxis are the most common mode of transportation, but there are also a lot of motorcycles and scooters on the road, which are cheaper to buy, own, and operate.
The major mode of transportation to get around Ecuador is buses. The majority of the people living here cannot afford to own cars, and there are many who simply choose not to own one because it’s not necessary. A bus ride from Cotacachi to Quito is currently about $2.50. One from Cotacachi to Otavalo is .35, and they run all of the time. The buses are all diesel so they are noisy and polluting but they are a necessity in Ecuador.
Oh no… Only 7 days left in Ecuador. How could this month have flown past so quickly?! We don’t feel ready to leave yet.
Gary and I are eager to return to our comfy bed, our dog and cat, garden, neighborhood, and friends. We are eager to return to a city where burglary is less of an issue… although my hometown has experienced more burglaries in recent years and our house was robbed, our neighbor’s car was burglarized and friends in other towns have been robbed. hmmm… maybe it’s no more dangerous here.
On the other hand, we are sorrowful to leave this relaxed, interesting lifestyle among friendly people in this tranquil landscape. I shudder to contemplate the amount of work that’s backlogged in my business during our month here. Remembering how strongly we felt the absence of uncomfortable ‘buzzing” vibration in the atmosphere when we first arrived, I’m reluctant to return to that nebulous buzzing sensation again. My whole body relaxed tangibly, over this month without it.
Visiting Cuenca was on our list because it’s a whole different atmosphere. We wanted to visit a few different areas in Ecuador, if possible, to get a better feel for the variety of experiences possible. Cuenca is a popular destination for expats from various countries because it’s a more international city with two symphony orchestras, plenty of art, museums and cafes, and residents from all countries. It has a greater quantity of desirable features, such as hiking trails, parks, hot springs nearby. On the negative side, it has urban features such as traffic jams, smog, and noise. Our pal from the Ft. Lauderdale airport, “Papa” Ron Cropper, wrote to say: “I absolutely love Cuenca. It is the cleanest city that I have ever been in. There is lots to do here. It’s a shoppers paradise and plenty of parks. The people are fantastic. The weather is also fantastic.” I hear it’s nearly as peaceful as Cotacachi. Gary and I were personally interested to go see it, in case we decide to retire in Ecuador. Alas, that trip will have to wait for another time.