On my second and third day in Cuenca, I took buses out to some nearby towns. The views along the way are pastoral and lovely, with picturesque villages and patchwork-like fields dotting across the green Andean range, rivers cradling the Azuay region, catching a glimpse of a young child dragging a pig one and a half times’ his size, and women weaving the sombreros that are so ubiquitous in this part of the world.
The first place I went to was the Ingapirca ruins of one of the Incan empires. The ruins are about 2 hours by bus from Cuenca and easily accessible by bus run by Canar at fixed times (US$2.50 each way), so there is really no need to buy a day tour. Wasn’t expecting to be wowed since most of the ancient Incan ruins in Ecuador have already been destroyed due to Incan civil wars. But given the entrance fee (US$6 for foreigners) I’d expected better signages to explain what the sites were, and believe me it is really difficult to tell from the present-day archaelogical remains. Although guides were available, guides’ explanations are given in groups and it is the luck of the draw of whether the group at any given time is Spanish or English-speaking. Nonetheless, I had a good time just strolling around, picking up bits and pieces of explanations here and there, and taking in the sights with a giant leap of imagination of what the place might have been like. Maybe it is the beautiful sceneries surrounding such archaeological sites (so far have been to two in and around Cuenca), but I can’t help but believe that perhaps the Incans really knew how to choose a fengshui spot for their important sites. Hope to learn more when I’m in Peru.
The trip to Ingapirca took almost the whole day even though the archaelogical site itself isn’t that big, partly because the bus leaves at fixed times. Had a late lunch cum dinner when I got back to Cuenca, and more photo-taking of the historic centre of this UNESCO world heritage site city.
In the evening, I caught a Donizetti opera – L’elisir d’amor – produced by the faculty of arts of the University of Cuenca. The libretti are in French and the subtitles are in Spanish, but comic is universal. Also, the young leads were pretty good, especially the soprano and one of the baritones.
Walked back to the hostal at 10.30 in the rain as the old city glistens beautifully under the night lights.
The next day, I took a bus, first to Gualaceo. Nothing particularly interesting in this town, although it somehow reminds me of those towns in the old Western movies. Saw an indigeneous woman barbecueing guinea pigs, but skipped that and went to the restaurant further down for a US$2 three-course set lunch.
And as I travelled further on to Chordeleg, the old Western feel just further cemented itself: dry and a bit dusty, with shopfronts supported by wooden porches. Most of the shops around the main plaza are joyerias, or jewellery shop, selling silver pieces which the town is supposedly famous for. There is also a couple of interesting handicrafts shops. Was looking for a spondylus seashell piece for keepsake, but didn’t find anything that could make me commit. Still, window shopping just around the plaza itself (which is not big) took a good 2 hours. I trust female readers would understand.
Thereafter, I caught the bus and went further south to yet another town called Sisig. Somehow found this town more interesting than the first two and had a good time strolling around even though I didn’t have much chance to interact with the local indigenous people, who carried on with their lives, oblivious (?) to the odd snap-happy tourist. Sat by a roadside stall for an afternoon empanada snack and watched the laidback town go by.
By the time I finished my excursion of the day and got back to Cuenca, it was almost 7pm. Again, it was raining in the evening. Discovered an upmarket restaurant that served a very yummy seafood rice at a very reasonable price. Felt very contented with my day.