We didn’t plan to stay so long in Ecuador but the little country with such diversity impressed us so much we ended up staying a full two weeks longer than we’d expected to. Our time there eventually drew to an end in Cuenca – Ecuador’s colonial gem in the south.
Catching a bus from Puerto Lopez, we travelled through never-ending banana plantations, the industrial metropolis of Guayaquil and back into the soaring Andes mountains. We’d thought that the landscape in Colombia was beautiful, but the changing scenery throughout Ecuador was truly spectacular – we saw everything from steamy jungles, stunning coastlines and beautiful mountain ranges that included snow-capped volcanos!
Cuenca itself was pretty, but there was no forgetting that it was a big city with busy roads and a way of life that was a bit more fast-paced than some of the more recent places we’d visited in Ecuador.
It was only when we climbed the many steps to the top of the city’s new cathedral (Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción) that we could fully appreciate its distinctive style. From up high, you could look out over the city’s terracotta roofs and many church spires in an impressive panorama.
We found there wasn’t a lot to do in Cuenca besides admire it’s architecture and visit a few museums, but it was a nice rest for us and a good opportunity to learn a bit more about the history of the country we’d been in over the last few weeks.
One of the best museums was the Central Bank Museum, which had an interesting exhibition about all the different indigenous tribes people of Ecuador. Although we didn’t understand a lot (because much of the descriptions were in Spanish), we got to see some real shrunken heads on display!
The panama hat museum in the city (which was more like a hat shop with a few people making some hats at the back) wasn’t quite on par with the shrunken heads, but it was still lots of fun to try on all the different styles.
When the time came for us to leave Ecuador, we boarded another bus to reach our first stop in Peru – Mancora. We’d been told by people we’d met who were making the journey north that Mancora was nice for a few days to stop and relax for a bit – and that’s exactly what we did.
Mancora was the perfect place to lie on a beach and prepare ourselves for a whirl-wind two-week tour of Peru ahead of our pre-arranged Inca Trail Hike on 15th August.
I was a bit sad to leave Ecuador, which had surpassed all my expectations, but excited to start exploring a new country all over again.