Ecuador Tour 2013
January 11th – 20th, 2013
 


January 17th

Diego, our city guide met us at the hotel and we set off for our tour of Cuenca. 2500 meters above sea level and set in a valley, this city is gorgeous. Surrounded by mountains, traversed by four rivers, and home to beautiful 14th and 15th century architecture, Cuenca surprised nobody when it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In the Old Town, you will find Parque Calderón and other colonial parks and plazas, neighborhoods that date back to the first days of the Spanish conquest of the area, and religious art museums showcasing some of Ecuador’s most impressive artwork. Also to be admired in this area are architecturally impressive buildings and churches such as the Old and New Cathedrals, Santo Domingo, San Sebastián, and San Blas, to name but a few. The city is also famous for hosting the International Art Fair. The most impressive of the city’s many museums are as follows: Banco Central, Casa de la Cultura, Conceptas Convent, Remigio Crespo Toral, Artes Populares de América, Arte Moderno, and Instituto Azuayo de Folclore. With so much cultural heritage to offer the tourist, it’s no surprise that Cuenca was chosen as the Cultural Capital of the Americas in 2002.

2,000 Buildings are considered to be architectural treasures…

It was founded in 1557 and with a population of around 550,000 people has 52 churches – one for every week of the year. We stopped for a view of the valley to get a better idea of how the city sat and was protected in the valley, then wandered down the hill a bit to visit an art gallery with beautiful tiles and pottery then boarded our coach and were off to the Panama Hat Factory.

Panama Hats were first produced here in 1835 and it was a busy time as there were about 10,000 families making these hats in this area. Now most of them are made on the coast and brought here to the factories to be finished. We met a lady who had brought in a bag of the hats to sell. They come in this way and are then put through the process to make them ready for you! After our lesson in how they are made and how to tell the difference between the regular hats and the very expensive ones. I think everyone left with purchases, whether it was hats, purses, clothing or jewelry. A fun visit each time I have taken my groups here. We then continued on with a bit of a walking tour to see a beautiful church, some of the city that even included people out washing by the river, we stopped at the local market to pick up our boots for the Magic Flowers visit, passed by a flower and fruit and veggie market and it was back to the hotel to get pick up our bags for our drive to Guayaquil.
 
Our coach was late – this was unusual - we later found out it had problems, so instead of having lunch where we were going to, we ended up eating at the hotel, which was super. Our new coach arrived and off we set…but as we passed by the place we were to have our original lunch at – at the start of the mountains – we had coach problems again. Wow, what luck we had but it could not have happened on a better day as we had nothing planned but to drive to Guayaquil. We backed the coach down the hill for about a half mile and ended up at a café…how fortunate we were…we could have coffee and sit and wait for the third coach to come pick us up – it arrived in jig time and low and behold if it wasn’t our driver from Cuenca that we had while there…off we set and this time we made it, a couple hours later than planned but we made it. We had dinner planned in the hotel so this made it much easier for all to eat and then go to bed. Thankfully this doesn’t happen to me very often, in fact, this was the first time, but everyone was happy it got solved so quickly. On our drive through the Cajas Mountains we learned about bananas, a huge crop here in Ecuador. Banana Bonita is the largest producer, followed by Dole. They even have their own banana ports to get them ready for shipment in those huge containers which are specially made for shipping bananas. Machala is the banana city of Ecuador. To put this into perspective. Each box is 22-25 kilos and the size of each box is 8” x 20” x 13”. Each banana has to be 10” in length. There are 228,297,363 boxes shipped each year. The Baltic States take the most bananas, then Russia, then U.S.A. followed by Mediterranean countries, Middle East, Europe and East Africa. Banana plants are planted with Cacao under them too.

 

 
 

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