Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador and is known for its colonial charm & four rivers that flow through it. Last semester I visited Cuenca for its Founder’s Day celebrations and this semester I revisited for the city’s Independence Day celebrations (first weekend of November). Before, however, I made it out to Ingapirca which contains the most prominent and preserved Incan archaeological ruins in Ecuador.
I met my travel buddy, Sarita, through my host mom’s hostel business. Sarita is an art student from Italy who is currently traveling through Latin America. We left Quito on a night bus hoping to meet up with our friends from Guayaquil Thursday morning, however, our friends were delayed so we decided to leave for Ingapirca just the two of us.
We came back to Cuenca and met up with our friends from Guayaquil: Karlita, Juanki & Mario, as well as Phoebe (a Couchsurfer who Juanki was hosting). We went to Pitty’s house, a friend from Machala (a big coastal city south of Guayaquil) and she was generous enough to host us in her beautiful, spacious apartment.
That night we went to the main plaza, got canelazo, and listened to the Banda Blanca who played a lot of music. It instantly became clear that we were essentially a bunch of costeños in the Sierra because nobody was dancing, so we pushed through the crowd and started dancing in the center. One lady kept yelling at us to move since we were blocking the view, and we ignored her but occasionally yelled back saying that she should dance too. She got really heated but one of the military officers from the Banda Blanca told her to calm down and let us dance in peace. Worth the tiff.
Fiestas de Cuenca 2012 (sorry about the low-quality)
Friday morning we got seafood for breakfast (which isn’t really a thing in the U.S. but is pretty popular with costeños). People here love Encebollado (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encebollado), but it’s not really my thing so I got my favorite Camarones al Ajillo (shrimp in a garlic-coconut sauce that resembles Thai food somewhat). SO DELICIOUS! We walked around the city for a while, which is beautiful due to the skinny, long streets, rivers, and churches on every corner. We came across an art fair and wandered around there for a while.
That night, the ladies cooked dinner at home and Juanki and I did dishes. Afterwards, we met up with more friends and went out to a few bars and clubs since it was feriado (holiday).
Friday was Día de los Difuntos, which is a festival celebrated in Ecuador to acknowledge deceased relatives. It’s a really familiar time and most families go to cemeteries and give flowers/offerings, drink Colada Morada (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colada_morada) and eat Guaguas de Pan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guaguas_de_pan). The custom is to dip the Guagua de Pan headfirst into the Colada Morada. It’s really delicious and too bad the festive foods aren’t year-round.
Saturday we went to Guayaquil (about 4 hours from Cuenca) since Karlita and Juanki had to work. Saturday was tranquilo but all the better because Sunday was wild. Sundays in Ecuador are normally really calm because its time to spend with your family, but this Sunday was just the opposite.
We (Sarita, Juanki & Rodrigo, a traveler we met from Chile) went to a fútbol game unlike any other: Barcelona vs. Emelec for the Clásico del Astillero. They are both the main fútbol teams from Guayaquil so it was essentially World War III. This was nothing like the Ecuador-Bolivia game where there was only a handful of Bolivia fans. This time, there were fights, police everywhere, madness, people throwing things at each other, etc.
Guayacos are hardcore when it comes to fútbol, especially when it comes to teams they are passionate about. I have to say, for the first half Emelec played better and I thought we were going to win (we went supporting Emelec since Juanki is a die-hard fan) but we lost our touch and Barcelona ended up winning 5-0. Til today, my Guayaca friend Diana tells me to stop crying over spilled milk.