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Half Alive

Cuenca, Ecuador- I should like this city. It’s right up my alley. Not too big. Not too small. Beautiful architecture. Markets. Clean. Friendly people. But I don’t. I don’t dislike it either but I just can’t seem to get ‘into it’. The city feels half alive. Half of it’s stores are open at any given [...]

Cuenca, Ecuador-

I should like this city. It’s right up my alley. Not too big. Not too small. Beautiful architecture. Markets. Clean. Friendly people.

But I don’t. I don’t dislike it either but I just can’t seem to get ‘into it’. The city feels half alive. Half of it’s stores are open at any given time. The streets seem half full. The clubs and bars only stay open for half the night. Everything feels like it’s only half done. The gray skies spitting rain on me throughout day may also be affecting my attitude towards the city but my overall feeling towards this place boils down to a shoulder shrug and a “meh”. I feel ready to move on after one day.

The central market of Cuenca

That has become my impression of Cuenca. I aimlessly walk around the city streets walking past more bakeries and ice cream shops than I care to count watching people move about their daily lives without energy and not looking excited to be alive. They move like drones fulfilling their daily obligations – work, eat, sleep. If nothing else this city has reminded me how much I miss Sucre. The two cities have many things in common but Sucre felt more alive. Like anything could happen at any time.

The one highlight of the past few days is that I’ve been traveling with Julane and Patrick. I met them in the border town of La Balsa as the three of us were the only Gringos making the journey to Vilcabamba from Chachapoyas. They have been traveling Central and South America for the past eight months and have been living, working and traveling their way throughout the world since the 80’s. Traveling with them has been enjoyable to say the least.

I took special joy when we walked into the bus station of Loja and each knew exactly what needed to be done. We were looking for onward passage to Cuenca but this didn’t need to be confirmed between us. We all knew that we were looking for bus tickets. We all knew to check all possible options and we all knew the price we were willing and should pay for a ticket. The first bus company quoted $7 for the ticket price. Without saying a thing we all walked away. Too high. Julane and Patrick made there way down the line of bus companies as I was called back.

“Ok, Seis.” said the main at the ticket window.

“Seis?” I confirmed.

In the span of this brief conversation Julane and Patrick had checked all of the other companies and we found this first bus company for six dollars to be our best option. Six dollars is the right price and the bus leaves in 15 minutes. Without saying any more we went to the bus company and bought our tickets. Three travelers working together all knowing what the game plan is without saying a word – easy, compatible travel at its best.

As an added bonus they’re foodies. Unlike myself they enjoy researching restaurants and finding those with the best food for the best price. I’ve been able to eat some great food in some nice restaurants for a decent price instead of my normal aimless meandering down the street and picking whatever place I happen to roam into.

Tomorrow I’m checking out of Cuenca and unfortunately parting ways with my new-found friends to make my long awaited return back to the beach. I need some sun, sand and water and have picked up a new book recently to provide hours of entertainment between drifting in and out of consciousness while laying on the golden sands of the Pacific Ocean.

Bocadillo

It was Beer o’ Clock (a.k.a 5:00 pm) as I sat in my hammock in Vilcabamba. I walked up the street to the local tienda for a 1/2 liter. My sweet tooth kicked in and I began eying over the cookies, crackers, Suzy Q’s and wafers. It was the same old stuff until I laid eyes on a plastic wrapped, brown square chunk of…Bocadillo?

Ingredientes: Miel de Caña, Maní.

My direct translation of Miel de Caña came out as sugarcane honey which I doubt is correct since I can’t imagine how you can possibly get honey from sugarcane but I went with it and bought a pack. Sugar, honey and peanuts seemed like a good combo to me but it could also be a sugary, sweet abomination of flavor.

I tore open the pack immediately and tore off a small square. The stuff was a sugar shock to my system but oh so good. The consistency is that of fudge; peanut honey fudge. I ate four more squares immediately and found a new favorite sweet.

Photos of Cuenca:

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Filed under: Cubicle Ditcher, Ecuador

About the Author:

Sam Langley left a comfortable and profitable job with an insurance company in the USA to travel the world. He has been going for years, and has not stopped yet. Keep up with his travels on his blog at Cubicle Ditcher. has written 147 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.