We thought we were getting a private van to take us to Cuenca, 3 hours away for $12 per person. I had a feeling that was too good to be true but anyway..that was our first mistake. So yesterday afternoon at 2pm there was only Chet and I. We missed the 2pm van. At 3pm there were 6 of us plus the driver in a small van plus lots of luggage, mostly ours. Ok, here we go loaded up with snacks and water. That was my second mistake! The water. I had heard that water helps with altitude sickness, you know the whole staying hydrated thing. Well anyway, jouncing and swerving along for 3 hours with only one stop does nothing for making a pleasurable trip.
I sat in the middle seat in the middle row. That was my third mistake. See, the air conditioning was not working properly and only kept the driver and his friend up front cool. I’m guessing anyway. I guess because they had their windows down too. Anyway I was sitting on some kind of hot motor or something and so was the girl behind me so it was needless to say very steamy. Get the picture? Full bladder, steamy seat….
Then it started to rain, so up go the windows! I started to pray, then mercifully I fell asleep. When I awoke the countryside was beautiful and lush, we had left Guayaquil far behind. We saw so much beauty…mile after mile of banana groves…and so much poverty…little kids going in and out of houses that you would have sworn no one lived in.
We climbed to about 13,000 feet before dropping down to Cuenca, an elevation of 8,000 plus. Chet started to sneeze (the beginnings of his cold) as the weather became markedly cooler and the rain got heavier, and the hairpin curves got worse and the only stop we made was long behind us and my bladder was…ok enough of that! The van made it’s way up and through Cajas National Park and around those hairpin curves at top speed, passing on double lines, screeching to a halt when it met another oncoming car and then full speed ahead at the first clear inch. Yes, I meant to say inch!
Guess what? We arrived safely, all thanks to Jehovah! Needless to say we will be looking for an alternative to get back to Guayaquil for departure in 3 weeks. A taxi took us to our beautiful apartment that looks out onto part of the city, a school and the mountains in the distance. We are renting from Sister Maria Andrade, a pioneer sister who rents these apartments short term. Upstairs there is a family of 4, including two teenage sons, spying out the land from Chicago and a missionary couple also from Chicago, Eric and Jennifer Poole, who have been in Ecuador for 20 years.
We took a taxi to El Centro, lovely old historic downtown, to get a bite to eat and Chet spotted a vegetarian restaurant first thing. Fresh squeezed fruit juice, watch him he makes it to order, with your meal. Our dinner was $6. Smile. When we came out of the restaurant it was dark, about 8pm and a Zumba class was in full swing at the park across the street. They call it dance therapy here and it cost about fifty cents. No need to ask, I will be taking a class very soon!
This morning Jennifer pointed me to the beautiful produce market two blocks from the house, she is vegan like I am so she showed me the part of the market that has all organic veggies and fruit, and super cheap! Check it out…the first picture is some of what we brought home. Who can say Muy Bueno?