By: Jas Mitch
Arts & Expats in Cuenca
The bus from Baños was a very twisty route up through the mountains. It was some pretty incredible and ever changing scenery that left Mitch and myself with massive headaches and feeling a bit sick due to the huge altitude change we had experienced going over the mountains.
We arrived in Cuenca tired and ready for bed… our hostel receptionist had other ideas for us however and refused to honour our booking.com reservation, trying to get us to pay her more money! no thanks! so off we wandered… thankfully we found a place with a comfy bed just around the corner. Success
By the next morning we were feeling well rested and our headaches had gone away, we had found a fabulous hostel to stay at, and were ready to take on Cuenca!
Cuenca had a very different feel to the other places we had been in Ecuador, and definitely felt very safe. There is a huge expat community here, lots of retirees. We had no issues wandering around the city and so thats what we spent most of our time doing!
The first place we headed to was the Modern Art Museum. I’ll be honest in saying that our motivations here were based purely off the fact that it was in an old insane asylum… how could you not visit that?
As we pretty quickly discovered on our way over it was the Foundation Day for Cuenca, there were all sorts of celebrations going on throughout the city. People were everywhere. Parades were going on. Music was being played. The steets were filled with market stalls selling all sorts of organic produce, hand made furniture, jewellery, everything you could think of (I indulged in a cupcake, my first in a long time!). We were lucky to have seen it all as the celebrations and the markets were ending that day.
There was even go-kart racing complete with police escorts at the end of the day!
After wandering along for a while, enjoying the markets and celebrations we found ourselves outside of a pretty typical colonial style white building that housed the art museum… I’m not sure what I expected but maybe I thought it was be more creepy?
We entered and came out onto a lovely courtyard with lots of rooms extending off the courtyard.
Each was filled with strange and interesting art exhibits. All the descriptions were in Spanish so we had no idea what they were about. Still made for an interesting wander through. The building itself was made up of a number of these courtyards all connected through rooms, it was a lovely place to explore and kept us busy for a while.
Being South America, Cuenca was FILLED with old amazing cathedrals. It seemed as though every corner had yet another incredible cathedral just as amazing as the last.
The main cathedral in the middle of the town square, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, gives tours for only $2US and although completely in Spanish, you do get to enter into the crypts under the church. They are very pretty, with beautiful curved white walls and lovely statues. We may not have understood anything being said but it was interesting all the same. Especially given that we had just experienced the Day of the Dead in Baños and seen the graveyard there as well.
And just to continue our theme of the dead, we also visited the Pumapungo Museum. The museum itself is ok, I think I now have high museum standards from all the amazing museums in Bogota… but what it does have is a collection of shrunken heads… which neither Mitch or myself had ever seen before. Super creepy, especially as they are in a dark room with very low lighting on them. I didn’t realise what was in there until it was too late and I managed to give myself a bit of a fright!
The rest of our time in Cuenca was spent wandering through the streets, exploring the city. Cuenca was my favourite place in Ecuador. The people were lovely and the city is beautiful!
Also coffee. Cuenca is the first place we have come across that has decent coffee! You would think being South America we would be swimming in fabulous coffee… or at least I did! But apparently they export anything thats good and most of the coffee we’ve been drinking has been instant…sigh
Overall Cuenca was a great place to hang out in and wander the streets. We had only planned on spending one day there before hopping on a night bus to Peru… We stayed for five.