Hornados and humitas! – Quito and to Cuenca

We love the town square!  It is always alive and we could watch forever. Here in Cuenca our hostel room overlooks the square on the corner of Vargas Machuca and Mariscal Sucre streets. We usually sit on one of the park benches to rest and enjoy the action however, this evening we are observing from inside because it is raining torrents. Despite the rain, three boys are playing tag as they wait for the bus with their parents and a couple of young lovers find a private spot under the arbour.  At the corner a woman selling roasted corn and plantain fans the coals. Too much smoke is gathering beneath her umbrella. Her small child is using the back of a park bench as a balance beam.  A father holds his suit jacket over his head to shelter a camera from the rain while his son smiles broadly for his photograph to be taken in front of the statue. A girl wearing a plaid pleated skirt and white knee socks skips along as only an six year old can, her head bobbing as she cheerfully keeps up with the woman who is striding along holding her hand. A small boy darts across the street and with one giant step up, he does manage to board the bus. Maybe one day Randy and I will be those two old people who just watch the traffic go by.  If Courtenay ever has a town square maybe we will get an apartment overlooking it. That might induce us to move from the country.

Another dizzying bus ride to get to Cuenca. This time up to the highlands of Andes mountains and down into the valley within which lies this city. I won’t go on to long about the patchwork of fertile green hillsides  which even at 10,000 feet above sea level are planted with crops, or about canyons with rushing rivers and about driving through clouds on the edge of a mountain where one sees nothing but white all around!  Just exactly where is the road? Our bus stopped frequently to pick up people waiting on the roadside in the middle of the clouds and to let them off again further down the road, still in the middle of the clouds. Many handsome women boarded the bus, dressed in traditional indigenous clothing in shades of turquoise, ruby and emerald, their full skirts at knee-length, hugging brightly colored shawls, laughing and talking in Quichua, flashing bright smiles. All of the women wear fedoras too. They dress this way to go to market, to milk the cows in the field, to follow yoked oxen plowing a plot of  earth, or to hang out the laundry. There are many beautiful people still clinging to their traditions.

Besides being entertained by watching people, today was one of tasty delights. We tramped around all morning getting to know the town and then stumbled on the the local market well off gringo trail. Besides the heaps of fruits and vegetables for sale, several whole roast pigs (hornados) shiny, crisp and hot were being served up for lunch. We had that and then humitas which are a sweet tamale and then a few freshly boiled quail eggs and then at the end our day we found the ancient Inca meal of roasted guinea pig  (cuy). Very delicious once you get your mind off the little paws and such. Randy had almost lost hope of finding cuy, then we ventured into another one of the side streets and found a street vendor roasting whole guinea pigs over a bed of charcoal. I will send photos (to delete if you want) I was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be able to eat a guinea pig but once it was on the plate I just had to go for it. You might wonder how our stomachs are faring. We have discovered the magic of activated charcoal capsules. They are not sold in Canada and the US, (I suspect because it is cheap and effective and  pharmaceutical companies won’t put up with that) however, we have learned from experience and from people from other countries that it is a great remedy and preventative for stomach troubles that often bother travellers. Take one after any suspicous meal ie: the fish stew we had the other night. Whatever were we thinking to eat fish stew in a back alley restaurant in Quito? Oh, right, we’d ordered it and then didn’t want to offend the cook.

So now we have turned ourselves northward and are on our way back…home in about 10 days, but still lots of exploring left to do. The next stop will be at thermal springs and mud baths at the base of a volcano. I hear that you need to check on your escape route when you check in to your hostel??? I will keep you posted

Buenos noches amigos, love Monika and Randy