We're in Cuenca

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

As I quickly posted last night, we made it to Guayaquil (y-A-queel) without much in the way of incidents. At Miami, we were told to go from our arrival gate (D-8) to (D-44). That meant several walking sidewalks, two flights of escalators (we took the elevator) and a tram-train through four stops. We got to D-44 and the plane there was going to Barcelona. Oops, they moved the plane to D-1. Yup, right back where we started and down a few gates. Sigh....we got there with more than enough time.

Yeah, more than enough time to see the CNN news about the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Horrific!! That's all I have to say, my heart goes out to everyone.

We left Miami a little late but finally arrived in Guayaquil around 11 pm (12 pm to our bodies since they don't do DST). We got unloaded, strapped up our bags and headed to immigration. Two lines - a REALLY long one and a REALLY short one. I walked up to the nice officer and asked which line with a USA passport and he directed us to the short one.

As we got closer we saw that this was the line for diplomats and disabled. Gulp... Then as we drew even closer we noticed that atop their booths it was also for families, pregnant women and seniors. Guess he saw my nice white hair and Stu's missing hair and knew we were old and decrepit. LOL!

The gal that checked us in spoke English and was really nice. Only asked us if this was our first visit to Ecuador. So now we have passports officially stamped for up to a 90 day visit.

Next was customs and another long line with red lights and green lights flashing. If when you went through the line, the red light flashed, your bags got checked. The very nice official pointed for us to bypass the whole process. YES!!!

Our driver was waiting for us and we got our first taste of Ecuadorian traffic and drivers. Well, it's much like Mexico and we were expecting that. We got to our hotel - basic but clean with working A/C and hot water for $56 (including a delicious hot breakfast).

This morning was a little different. The same gentleman was on duty that checked us in, limited English, VERY limited. We wanted to see if he could call a recommended van tour company for us and if they only spoke Spanish, see if they would pick us and our luggage up at the hotel.

After a couple of funny mistakes (okay, so the book did ask about Madrid and I forgot to say Cuenca), we finally got it done. Well, except that no one answered the phone. Then it was busy, then no answer. Finally the gal who had taken over the duty of helping us (absolutely NO English for her), called another company. Long story short, we ended up with a private car to Cuenca. Pricier but quicker.

Yeah, quicker. Of course that could be because we think our driver was a descendent of Mario Andretti and he was out to set a new land speed record (and we believe he did). Three hours, even with three stops (one for drinks, one for bathroom and one for gas).

Speaking of the gas stop, he pulls into an obviously under construction building. A young boy opens the door, they converse and then his mother comes out. After a few more words, we drive to the back of the lot where she goes into a shed and fills a bucket with gasoline and uses a long funnel to fill it. Goes and gets a second bucket full and dumps that one in. She walks back to the first building and we follow in the car. Our driver pays for the gas and we drive away!

Up through the Andes Mountains, into the clouds - rain, fog, hairpin turns, passing on blind curves, never slowing, never giving an inch to the weather or the road. We finally start to come down the other side and pass through the National Cajas Park. Beautiful - llamas, alpacas, cattle, horses, mountains, flowers, and the never ending hairpin curves.

But we made it to Cuenca, eventually passing through Gringoland (a stretch of high rise ex-pat buildings) and found where we are staying: Hostal Otorongo. The owners wife checked us in and helped up find a good place to eat. Unfortunately they were in the process of closing but we were willing to make us an order to go. We ordered two sandwiches and two salads, both ended up being HUGE and the salads are in the frig for tomorrow.

Only three items lost/misplaced so far. Stu thinks his neck pillow pulled off his bag in our truck so we picked up another one at JFK. I misplaced my 7 day pill dispenser, it's a pain but not the end of the world. I'll see if I can find one here, if not, it's not biggie. Stu left a good sweatshirt on the plane somewhere - he put in a bin and doesn't remember ever taking it out. It's not his only one so he won't freeze. LOL!

Yes, I snapped a few photos but I'm wrapping it up for the night. Time for me to make my email &  Facebook rounds, then head to bed myself. Stu is already sound asleep. We're at over 8000 ft and we feel it, as well as passing through 14k ft mountains and two days of travel.

More later...just not sure when.

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