Cuenca, Ecuador tops many lists as a city to retire to because of low prices, ideal climate and cultural activities. So Dave and I were eager to check out the city. However, our first impression driving in from the north was not favorable. Cuenca and its environs coat a valley with numerous two or three story cinder and red brick houses for miles. The greater Cuenca area has a population approaching one million. This is much bigger than we were expecting.
On the positive side, the weather was great. Days were generally sunny with a late afternoon build-up of clouds and a short shower almost every day even if this is the ‘dry season’. Daytime temperatures would get to upper 70’s. Nighttime temperatures would drop to low 50’s. So weather wise we loved Cuenca.
And we experienced few bugs – always a plus.
We stayed at Cabinas Yanuncay campsite which is located in the area known as Canton Gualaceo. The walled compound is surrounded by the family members’ houses of campground owner Umberto.
Umberto turned out to be a godsend. He had worked in Berkeley for years as well as Germany and speaks four languages including English. His son still lives in the Bay Area.
Immediately upon arrival our camper roof lift failed to go up. We discovered a fuse had blown. A fellow camper going to the grocery store passed a hardware store and bought us a replacement fuse. But then after replacing the fuse, we discovered the passenger-side rear motor for the roof lift wasn’t working at all. You could sorta push it up when three other motors were taking the rest of the roof up, but never completely.
So Umberto got us an electrician. But first Dave and I had to take out the side walls of the table seating area so electrician could even get to the motor – which was fun and only one cursing episode. Electrician knew what the problem was and sent Umberto all over town to three different electrical stores to find this 1″ switch.
The electrician returned the next day and installed the replacement switch. While the electrician is sitting on the seating area platform and trying to install the switch and replace the motor and casing, I’m hunched over to reach the control panel in front part of camper, Dave and Umberto are also in camper to assist the electrician (tight fit with four people), the casing doesn’t catch and the roof drops on Umberto’s and Dave’s heads. Umberto had been leaning slightly forward so just glanced off his head, but it got Dave directly on top. He was seeing stars for awhile.
But bottom line, electrician got the roof lift fixed.
While we were in a fixing mood, Dave trouble-shooted why the passenger-side jack lift to remove camper from truck bed also wasn’t working. Turned out to be another blown fuse. Dave and I walked to three different electrical stores to find right 15 amp fuse.
In between fixing things and getting propane tank refilled with Umberto’s help, we would walk the 2 miles down a slight incline to Centro Historic and wander around looking at the old architecture. We visited the Catedral de la Immaculada Concepción, the Santuario Mariano, the Mercado 10 de Agosto with its August 10th Virgin Celebration, the Iglesia San Francisco, the Iglesia San Sebastián and plaza, the Museum of Modern Art and the Pumapungo Museum and Archeological Park.
One day we took the Hop-on, Hop-off City Tour which gave us a better appreciation of Cuenca. Another day we took a taxi to the Mall de Rio.
This mall is huge and would fit right into any US city. The food court had McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Subway as well as Ecuadorian chain restaurants. It had a 8 cinema theater and a two-story grocery store with household items and appliances, shoes and clothes on level two with the groceries and pharmacy on the ground level. While at the mall, I bought new sneakers as well as getting a haircut. Turns out my size 6.5-7 shoes are considered to be large in Ecuador and many of the markets and stores didn’t have shoes that big.
For the large ex-pat community that supposed to be in Cuenca, we didn’t see them; although we saw tourists in Centro.
We pulled out Sunday morning and headed south to Saraguro where we were looking for a waterfall mentioned in the Lonely Planet guidebook. Never did find waterfall but it was their Sunday market. We parked and wandered through street market for over an hour. Interesting indigenous community with many men and women in their native dress.
We had originally thought we would boondock there overnight but decided since it was only 2:00 pm to push on to Loja. We arrived in Loja around 4 and have boondocked in the stadium’s parking area.