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  • Niki Harry

Ecuador: Living in Cuenca

People always ask us: “So what do you do in Cuenca, Ecuador?” My simple answer: “We live. Like we do at home”. What else would we do!? We love Cuenca. After being here last year we decided that we would love to come here each year to escape winter in Canada, if possible. Cuenca has steady temperatures all year round, between 20-25 degrees. Cuenca is high in the mountains, so it doesn’t have pesky bugs like mosquitos. Cuenca is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains. Cuenca has healthy food. Cuenca has great people. Cuenca is inexpensive. Why wouldn’t we want to be here!? This year we convinced my brother Voyko to come with us as he has never been to South America.

We rented a beautiful spacious apartment called CASA BELLA MIA. Cheryl & Rex were our hosts and they lived in their own apartment upstairs. They were fantastic. They provided lots of insight on what to see and do in the area (restaurants, guides, transportation, city info, etc) and made us feel like family from the moment we arrived. The apartment was a minute walk to the Yanuncay river and only a 15 minute walk to the biggest market in town, Feria Libre (or El Arenal) Every single day we walked the river. In 3 weeks we logged 120kms.

We even exercised in the parks. Most (if not all) parks have exercise machines stationed throughout and most mornings the machines are packed with people. We also walked to El Centro or the Old Town almost daily. From our apartment it was straight down Ave Loja to 3 de Noviembre street and it was a 30-40 minute walk, about 3 kms to get to the Old Town. If you took a cab it was about $2.

Below, the patio of INCA LOUNGE, a great hangout and burger joint right on the 3 de Noviembre street and at the base of Old Town.

​There is no shortness of stairs in this city. Cant complain that you dont get enough exercise!

And then you can treat yourself to the most delicious pizza around! Our favourite pizza joint called FABIANO’S. Again, mostly filled with Gringo’s but you can’t beat the prices and deliciousness of the food.

And so many ice cream parlours… and coffee parlours. Yum. Yum!

And the market. Feria Libre (El Arenal). Oh how I loved this market! Unbelievable amounts of food. A sea of fresh fruit and veggies. Fresh meats. Grains. Spices. Eggs. Anything one might want or need. And so inexpensive. Voyko and I finally got the guts to shop here every couple of days and were supposed to barter for our food. Prices are so cheap that I had a hard time bartering for .50 cents! I just couldn’t do it. I felt so guilty, like I was robbing them. We even got brave and started buying our fresh meats and chicken. Had to learn a lot of Spanish words to try and ask for the right thing.

The funniest moment stands out for me. We wanted chicken wings. Hard to find just chicken wings, so we walked from stall to stall and they all said no. Finally one woman, with a huge smile on her face, says SI! SI! We were very excited and then watched as she proceeded to cut 4 lbs worth of chicken wings from the whole chickens she was trying to sell! Very funny but then we felt even guiltier for dismembering her whole chickens! We did go back a second time and she did it again, but this time we also bought a whole chicken to make up for it.

​We did a lot of hiking and walking daily but I wanted Voyko to experience some of the mountain hiking so we took him to the Cajas National Park and did the guided hike that we did last year. We just love this place.

On the hike we met a wonderful couple, Michaela and Brett, with whom we ended up hanging out with in Cuenca during the rest of our stay. And who have remained friends. This is another reason why I love travel. We get to meet & connect to wonderful new friends from all over the world.

My favourite place; The Polylepis Forest .. the Magical Enchanted Forest.

On another day, we hired a private driver and decided to head northwest of town to check out the area and see some sights. We went up to the town of Azogues, then across back mountain roads to Taday, and then over to Paute and then to Gualace. We wanted to see what the remote areas looked like and how people lived. We loved the scenery. The fresh clean mountain air was overpowering.

​And then in the most unexpected part we came across this: a bright modern ice cream parlour! So strange. The guys are struggling to ask for their ice creams in Spanish, and after a couple of minutes, the lady in perfect English says “Would you like that in a cup or a cone?” We cracked up.

At our apartment we had a fantastic backyard that we were able to enjoy every day. It was one of the biggest reasons I chose the apartment. Cheryl had so many feeders in the yard & the birds that would frequent we beautiful. These large hummingbirds were our favourite.

Cheryl & Rex; thanks so much for a fantastic stay at your gorgeous apartment. It was truly great and we felt so at home. You made us feel like family and we have gained new friendships.

Looking forward to coming back and hanging out in beautiful Cuenca with you again!

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