Punta Sal Chica, Peru (a.m.)/ Cuenca, Ecuador (p.m.)
Date: Lodging: Distance: Total:
23/09/2001 El Dorado 320 KM 213564 KM

A wonderfully restored building on the Plaza Abdon Calderon

The center of Cuena is home to several marble buildings – the expensive marble was mined nearby.

Graffiti in Cuena – Ecuador replaced its currency with US dollars in 2000.

Plaza and Church of San Blas

The cobblestone streets, old buildings and countless church spires make Cuenca an extremely attractive city.

Catedral de la Inmaculada

Cuenca is a town of 400,000 people and scores of ornate churches. With every turn of a corner in Cuenca, Jim and I are wowed by yet another centuries-old, religious structure.

We went from desert in northern Peru to rain forest in southern Ecuador. Bananas are in the blue sacks.

Signs promote Christ at the religious rally.

Thousands of people turned out for the religious crusade.

We ran into a religious rally when we crossed the border into Ecuador.

23 September 2001 – We reached Ecuador driving from a windy sand dune desert in northern Peru to fertile, green rain forest here. Really, quite stunning journey as we left one contrast for another. Border crossing was chaotic, as thousands of people walked, bought and sold nearly everything imaginable on the narrow, dirt, two-lane streets. As usual, few signs marked customs or immigration. Jim thrives on this madness, but I tend to experience rapid heartbeats as our car swerves from one vendor’s homemade juice stall to another’s wooden street shop selling fresh meat-filled empanadas. At the packed border beside a Christian revival of sorts, blasting songs and prayers through massive speakers, we changed our Peruvian soles into US dollars, since Ecuador converted to US currency in 2000 aiming to lower inflation.

After inspecting the money as best we knew how and hoping none was counterfeit, we drove on to Cuenca via pot-holed, winding roads. (We're spoiled since most of Peru's main roads were splendid, due to heavy tolls financing them.) Mid-afternoon, we reached Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador, home to 400,000 people. Here, everywhere we walked, we saw a cathedral or church. Honestly, Jim and I strolled for more than an hour and with every turned corner, we saw more spiraling steeples protruding into the sky. The centuries old, ornate churches are in good condition, generally, and always breathtaking. In el centro, stately, tall marble buildings, which were once home to the wealthy, are now home to government or banks.

Sunday afternoon found Cuenca nearly closed for commerce save the three crowded ice-cream parlors we passed. The most delightful sight at one was a young nun carrying eight cones of double scopes all topped with whipped cream! Jim and I watched her dart to a pickup truck that held seven other nuns looking delighted over their afternoon snack.

  Ecuador border to Cuenca (Paige)
  Cuenca (Jim)
  Border crossing (Jim)