Banos de Cuena y Una Nuevo Impresora

Today was a day of exploration and struggling with Spanish. It ended with a meal at Evelyn’s favorite restaurant (Chez Johnson) and a slap-stick bootleg DVD watched on a laptop.

We started the day with taking the metro Blue Bus for the first time.  After finding the bus routes online, we discovered that #12 goes right by our apartment, and goes out to Banos de Cuenca — a small town of natural hot springs, rather similar to Calstoga, North of San Francisco.

You just stand on the side of the road, and stick out your arm as the bus approaches. Much like flagging down a taxi.  The bus stops barely long enough for you to get your feet on the bottom step, and it is off like a rocket.  25 cents takes you to the next block or to the end of the line.  We watched the sign-board for stops, and 20 minutes later got off at “4 Corners” in Banos.  Didn’t really know where to stop, but that seemed like a logical place to try from.

This church was at the top of the hill, and dominated the view from any part of town.

Being Sunday, the info booth was closed, but a local saw we were testing the door, and asked if we needed  help. He knew all the spas in town and pointed out several from our hilltop vantage point.  I asked which he would go to, and he said Novaqua, so we went there.

About then, music started blaring out of a tower speaker just over our head, and all further conversation was impossible, so we started walking down the hill towards Novaqua. As we were walking, I was struck by how close we were to Cuenca, yet how third-world the town looked.

This woman, in typical indigenous dress, walks along along a road lined with half-built and poorly built homes.

Cows are in the of town, and often in the middle of the road. You can see the church at the top of the hill, dominating every view.

We arrived at Novaqua, which is a completely modern facility.  For $12 each, we had access to a warm swimming pool, hot pool, cold pool, steam sauna, and jacuzzi.  For an extra charge, there was massage available too.  I’m afraid I am not really much into these places, and was bored after 15 minutes…  When I got into the hot pool, I neglected to read the advisory message next to it (in Spanish) — “recommended stay no more than 5 minutes.”  After 15 minutes, I got out when I was feeling feint… ๐Ÿ™‚

I didn’t photograph any interiors, as it was discouraged with people in the pools.

We left after about an hour, and wandered around the rest of town.  We found another hot springs right next door that was obviously a favorite of the locals, based on the line to get in. The price there was only $4.25.  We never explored the range of amenities there.  We also looked in on Piedra de Aqua, which is the spa most heavily advertised.  Their basic entry was $10 (less than Novaqua), but they quickly tried to upsell to packages costing as much as $175 per person. Yikes!

We wandered back into town and chose a restaurant for lunch that was packed with locals.  We opted to order specific meals rather than the almuerzos. Evelyn’s Sopa de Papa was $3, as was my Seco de Pollo, and a monster size cerveza (beer) was another $1.25.  The meal was fairly tasty and set up back a whole $7.25.

After another Blue Bus adventure back to the apartment to drop off our clothes, we took a taxi out to Mall de Rio to buy a new impresora (printer) at the HP store.  The lone store clerk spoke absolutely no English, so we spent an interesting half hour or so making clear what we wanted to buy, and then completing the purchase.

Turns out they have no inventory in these stores, and you are buying the unit off the shelf.  There were 4 empty PC display slots that were filled when we checked out printer models last week, apparently sold in the interim.  The salesman was extremely thorough and helpful, making sure we had every cartridge, cable, disk, and what-not for the HP OfficeJet Pro 8000 that we bought for $136. 

By the way, you may have read my earlier warnings about making sure you brought any electronics with you from home that you want, because they are more expensive here.  That does not include computer printers though.  You can buy better ones in the States, but then you won’t be able to get ink/toner for it.  The printers sold here are not top-of-the-line from US standards, but they are reasonable, and supplies are then available when needed.

While waiting for the salesman to process our payment, Evelyn started playing with one of the PCs on display. She discovered a videoconverencing program that let her put bunny ears on herself. ๐Ÿ™‚

We then went over to Coral, in the same mall, to stock up on some additional forks, plates, diet coke, and other necessities not available in the local mercado.  Loaded down with our loot, we caught a taxi home.

It has been dry here for the past 4 days. Heavenly warm and dry for the entire Independence Day weekend.  Just as we got home, around 5:30, it started sprinkling.  By the time we had gotten everything inside, the sky opened up and it began to thunder and pour for the next couple hours.  I guess the rain is back!

At home, I made pork chops and mashed potatoes.  Chez Johnson is started to get his frying pan hands back in action again!  We usually have breakfast at home (Evelyn cooks those), lunches out (we can’t cook for the price the restaurants charge), and will probably get into a routine of eating at home for dinner 2 or 3 nights a week.  That is much more restauant eating than we are accustomed to, but the food here is so good, and the prices so reasonable, that we will enjoy it while we can…

After dinner, we popped Johnny English Reborn, a James Bond slapstick farce, into my Mac laptop.  This was recommended by our South Vietnamese guide last year.  I was skeptical, as I am not a fan of slapstick, but I have to admit, I was laughing through this one. ๐Ÿ™‚

Independence Day Without Fireworks!?

[NOTE: Late Addendum] It is now just after 1AM, and the fireworks have started!  I can see them over the tops of the houses in 2 different directions.  Nobody we talked to knew when or where, but we apparently gave up many hours too soon.  They were all over in about 5 minutes, but they did exist.

————  Now back to the post I wrote a few hours ago… ๐Ÿ™‚

Today is the official Independence Day for Cuenca.  The various local festivities continued, with concerts in many parks.  We had read that Park Calderon would have Noche de la Cuenca with fireworks starting at 7PM.  Since we were not really interested in seeing the craft shows again, we took a lazy day at home, and didn’t head out until 4PM.

There was a military parade on the other side of town (near the cemetery we went to yesterday) at 10AM, but we decided not to get up early for that.  President Correa was supposedly there, and we did hear the military jets flying overhead until around noon, so they were likely providing air protection for him.

Our afternoon goal was to head back to Park San Blas and have a large cuy for dinner.  Unfortunately, we got there about 4:30 and the vendors were tearing everything down.  The only cuy left was a scrawny thing on a spit that did not look at all appetizing.  Instead, we went over to Tuddo Freddo for a milkshake… ๐Ÿ™‚

When we saw fireworks on our trip here in February, they had blocked off a street from car traffic, and erected a wooden frame they call a castle. We looked around Park Calderon and found nothing that looked like any fireworks preparation.  We asked 5 different people (police and locals) and literally got 5 different and conflicting answers.  Around 7:30 we asked a gringo that had moved to Cuenca permanently, and she said the fireworks would be at midnight.

We gave up and walked until we found Mediterrano, a new Italian restaurant.  We have now added it to our list of Top Restaurants to return to — details will follow in a later post covering several of our favorites.

Most of today’s photographic opportunities were around Park Calderon, where there was a constant flux of impromptu performers, artists and vendors.

 

As the sun set, colors come out in the sky and the park area takes on a beautifully eerie appearance.

There were several mimes around. This one was interesting, as he was suspended in air wth no visible means of support. You could walk directly under him and put your hands anywhere around him, and there were no wires or support visible.  He stayed up there for the two hours we were in the area.

This was another mime.  Totally motionless until someone put a coin in the box at her feet. She would then touch the giver with a magic wand, do a slow twirl and return to motionlessness.

This “Tin Man” mime had less success than the others in attracting a crowd, but this boy did put a coin in his box, and got his picture taken by his mom.

The band platform was taken over by a group of kids doing break-dancing.

There were a couple street artists in the area. This one of the better ones.

The “spray paint artist” was back again.  Fascinating to watch him work, with completed samples around him. Unfortunately I never saw him make a sale, though his work was stunning and the method of creation completely unique.

This is one the “spray paint artist” completed works that was laying next to him, while he was working.

Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos is now over.  It occurs on the second day of the extended Independence Day celebrations. Police presence in the city has been dramatically increased, with the newspapers explaining that they want to be sure no outside criminals come into town to prey on festival goers.  I have seen no indication of any crime at all, so I guess it is working — at least in my immediate vicinity.  But then, we have never seen any crime in Cuenca.  This feels like a very safe city.

For most of the day, the city skies were being circled by 3 military fighter planes. We have heard that President Correa is going to be visiting Cuenca tomorrow — the official Cuenca Independence Day.  Our guess is that the military flying the skies may be related to that visit, though we have no idea why it would be done before the visit?

While I continue to be surprised at how many overweight Cuencanas we see around town, belt tightening is the word of the day in our apartment.  Both Evelyn and I have already moved our belts a notch tighter, and I actually went a second notch today.  At this rate, I may look almost normal again by the time we return to the States in January! ๐Ÿ™‚

The weather has been picture perfect that last couple days.  Starts off with clear skies.  Clouds form later, giving a nice background for photos, but the day stays short-sleeve weather, and no rain to spoil the afternoon.

We started today by stopping in at a Festival of the Arts we stumbled over.  It was held in the same courtyard as our favorite milkshake stop (ChocoCream).  Unfortunately, we just had breakfast, so just looked at the art and food, and skipped the milkshake. 

I did buy a Colada Morada though — a Cuencan drink that is only made available during the Independence Day weekend each year.  It is a warm, purple fruit drink that reminds me of the green glop that Rene Russo drinks in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.  I think I can easily wait a year before having another…

We then wandered over to Puenta de la Centario for more high quality crafts.  This town is filled with art and crafts during this weekend, though it is often hard to find them all.

  

Beautiful metal engravings


 

We next returned to the Artesenia de las Americas again, so Evelyn could buy another belt.  We both ended up buying wallets there too.  Very good quality and low prices ($7 for wallets and $12 for belts).  Interestingly, there was no haggling on anything at this show.  I saw a couple locals attempt to haggle, and they were totally turned down too, so it was not just a failure of us gringos.

 We had read that there was another festival at Parque de las Madres, so we headed there next.  There must have been a mistake though, since the park was surrounded with a construction fence and there was a large billboard touting renovation of the park.  The fence had some interesting murals on it, helping keep the area attractive, and probably discouraging graffiti tagging.

Next was a walk across town to Parque San Blas.  We stopped in for an almuerzos we found along the way.  Very disappointing meal, but filling.  A few minutes later we were sorry we had eaten there, as the park had a series of food vendors that looked like something we would rather have eaten.  Several vendors cooking and selling Cuy (guinea pig) and Pollo (chicken).

This being Dia de la Muerto (Day of the Dead), we decided to trek out to the cemetary, which is the traditional destination on this day.  Our maid assured us it was too far to walk, and was indeed out near the airport, but we walked anyway (see why our belts are tightening?).

The cemetery was one of the most elaborate and interesting I think I have ever seen.  Immediately upon entering, we were confronted with building upon building of burial vaults.  The only prior place I had seen these was in a James Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever” where he gets a clue from such a vault…

There were many different styles of vaults, plus in-ground burial plots, and elaborate mausoleums. The area was so peaceful that we decided to sit on a bench under a tree and listen to the pleasant female vocalist that was serenading an outdoor Catholic service in a small square in the center of the vaults.

 

 

 

Cuenca Independence Begins!

Cuenca’s Independence Day is November 3, which is the day the city declared independence from Spain in 1820 (Quito had declared in August and Guayaquil in October earlier that same year).  This is such a major celebration here that it actually covers 4 days — from November 1 through November 4 each year.

Today started the celebration, and was a full day for us.  It was a nice change from the bust of Halloween.  Though Mexico goes all out for Halloween, it is not really celebrated in Ecuador.  We saw a total of one child dressed up in costume, and she was crying, apparently not happy to have her mother force her to be different from everyone else in town.  We heard of teenagers dressing as zombies and ghouls, and our neighbor got one photograph of 3 teens dressed that way, but we struck out.

Mexico celebrates Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) with big festivals on Nov 1, but here it is strictly a religious occasion. However, the Independence Day festivities gave us plenty to see and do.

After breakfast at home, we walked over to the Parque Otorongo, where we had seen a large number of vendor tents being set up the last couple days.  Unfortunately, this was a bust, with nothing but cheap trinkets and junk being sold.  Very disappointing start.

We then walked towards Parque Calderon, and came across a High School parade going down the street next to the park.  We watched it go by for roughly half an hour — it was pretty good for a high school group.

We then continued walking around the park, and came across the most unusual painter we have ever seen. He made masterpieces using only spray cans of paint.

Here are a couple finished examples that he had next to him for sale:

Continuing our walk around the park, we came across a fair sized crowd around a pavillion with a very nice male singer blasting some darn good music.  We couldn’t really get very close, and it took awhile to even spot the singer.  And were we ever surprised!  There was a boy not more than 7 or 8, belting out the music while dancing up a storm.  At first I thought it must be Kareoke, but no, that really was a small kid with all the moves and sound of a teenage heart-throb.  When he finished, the crowd erupted in applause.

 

That is him in the center, barely visible over the heads of the crowd.

As we continued wandering around the park, we could see the park filled with families enjoying the warm sunny day of festivities.

We next decided to walk over to Parque San Blas to see what was there.  (We were supposed to go there last night, but got turned around and ended up at another park at the other end of town…). Though there were no official festivities there today, we found another very nice park, with two large churches, and a large fountain with kids playing in the water.

We finally turned back towards the Simon Bolivar Spanish School for our 2PM class.  This was my last class (I need to start doing some LeapFrog work next week), though Evelyn will be continuing for a couple more weeks.  Her instructor took her out on the street as part of her class, where they found folk dancers on Plaza Santa Domingo.

Both our Spanish instructors told us that the Otorongo Plaza artisans were “not the real thing” and that we really needed to go see the Artesanias de America.  This is a multi-national pavilion of artisans along the river, maybe a mile from our apartment on our same road.

We arrived to find a military band playing some suprisingly good music — not what i normally associate with a military band at all.

We walked around the various artisan booths, and were much more impressed.  These were artisans every bit as good as the best street fairs ever bring out in the States.  Evelyn ended up buying a new handmade belt, and a gift for her sister — can’t reveal what is was, since she reads this blog… ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Walking Off the Shakes

Both Evelyn and I have worn pedometers every day for the past couple years, egging each other to get out and walk for exercise. It has helped my weight (though less than I would have liked), my blood pressure and my cholesterol. It has cost me nothing but a few bucks for the meter and time every day.

And it is HARD to reach 8000 steps in a day.  I walk daily as far as a reasonable lunch hour will allow, and still often come up short of that goal.  Evelyn walks the golf course once or twice a week, and though she easily hits the targets those days, the rest of the week I get to compare pedometers and gloat as hers is lower than mine.

Now, we come to Cuenca, and suddenly we are hitting over 12,000+ every single day, without any specific effort in doing so at all!  We have no car, and rather than hailing a cab several times a day, we simply walk.  At the end of the day our feet are tired, and our pedometers look like they are broken!

Well, it turns out that it is a really good thing that we are now walking so much, because we have discovered one of the Cuenca delights that never seems to be mentioned in lesser blogs.  I am talking about:

Strawberry Milk Shakes!

Yep, it turns out that Cuenca has a ton of ice cream shops, and they all make excellent strawberry shakes!

Tutto Freddo is a local chain of ice cream shops, and is the first one we visited back in February.  At the time, we had found ourselves stranded during Carnival with no nearby restaurants open except this one near the central Park Calderon, so went in and had a banana split for dinner.  We hadn’t eaten one of those since shortly after college, and it was a decadent treat!

We dropped in last week for a strawberry milkshake ($2.20), and found it thick, creamy and just sweet enough.  We knew we had to come back.  A couple days ago we found ourselves down by the river at the other end of town, and noticed another ice cream shop.  Well, of course we had to check out the competition!

The ChocoCrema shop only charges $1.80 for essentially the same shake.  With a blind taste test, I doubt I could tell the difference. This quickly rose our ‘favorites’ list, though being so far away, we will probably not make it there as often as the chain Tutto Freddo.

Today we were in downtown Cuenca, and Evelyn noticed an ice cream shop that her Spanish instructor said was popular with the locals, so we had to do our homework and test it out…

We were a bit surprised to find that this was the most expensive strawberry shake of those tried so far ($2.80), and wasn’t as rich or sweet as the others.  It is not likely we will return to this particular ice cream shop again.

You can bet we will continue to do the hard research for you all over town though, as we

Walk Off Those (Strawberry Milk)Shakes! ๐Ÿ™‚

[Brag] 2012 Berkeley Camera Club Annual Winners

This will probably be my last [Brag] post of 2012, since these are all based on my photographs winning awards at the Berkeley Camera Club, or our parent N4C photography organization. Since I will be in Ecuador for the remainder of the year, I won’t be submitting any more images for competition this year. 

But I have to brag one last time in 2012, after the annual BCC awards banquet last night.  Since I am 6,000 miles away, I was not present, but I was told today that I had some annual winners.

To my complete surprise, I won the Travel Image of the Year (against all levels) for the following image:

“Two fish vendors share a friendly conversation at the Vinh Long Market in South Vietnam, Oct 18, 2011”

I also received a Gold Medal in Intermediate Journalism (and got bumped to Advanced category for 2013) for this image:

“The worst floods in 60 years turn many Cambodian roads to mush, through which even dirt bikes with a load of piglets has trouble getting through. Oct 13, 2011”

Additionally I won 1st place in Masters Pictorial with:

“Spilled Wine”

And finally, 1st place in Masters Creative with:

“Punching Through”

I hope you enjoyed seeing these as much as I enjoyed taking them.  Now I have to concentrate on creating next year’s masterpieces! ๐Ÿ™‚

Random Walk Through Cuenca, Eduador

Now that we have been in Cuenca, Ecuador for a week, we are starting to settle in and our initial routine is taking shape. I came down with a 24-hour flu last night, and have barely able to get out of bed most of today. I thought this might be a good time to take a random walk down some initial observations and thoughts about this city sitting high in the Andes on the equator.

DVD’s here are an easy home entertainment.  There is no Netflix available, but when you can buy the latest Hollywood release for $1.25, who needs to bother with rentals?  Yep, go into any of several DVD stores in town and pick out Men In Black 3, Expendables 2, Taken 2, etc and get 4 for $5.  Take them home and discover they are the same DVD that you would have bought back home for $20 each.  Almost all are in English.  Some have Spanish subtitles (good for learning the language), while others have a language option allowing you to play it in English, Spanish or Portugese.  And yes, they are pirate copies…


The sidewalks here are pretty narrow, allowing 3 people shoulder-to-shoulder in most places.  Schoolgirls are a plague, often seen walking arm-in-arm 3-abreast, talking rapid fire as only schoolgirls can, oblivious to anyone coming the other way — those others just need to get off the sidewalk to make way… ๐Ÿ™‚ (Note: This particular image I captured has the girls eating ice cream rather than arms locked, and this is one of the wider sidewalks in town, but the girls act the same regardless of space, and “own the sidewalk”)

Car sirens are a common sound downtown.  Like a child crying wolf, they are ignored though.  I heard one siren yesterday, and noticed a policeman 1/2 block away that did not even bother turning his head to look.  The alarms have no value when they are heard so often…

There is a surprising amount of jiggle in the midriff of schoolgirls walking down the street.  Everyone in the city walks a lot, and there are hills to conquer.  The food here is fresh and American fast food can only be found in the malls at the very edge of town.  So why are the girls so fat?  Not really American-style obese, but definitely heavier than we see in many other countries.  Surprising…


Taxis are ubiquitous and cheap.  $2 gets you anywhere around town, with $2.50 to go to the outlying malls.  Of course most Ecuadorians make under $5/hr, and many make under $2/hr, so it only appears cheap to us.  We only use the taxis ourselves when returning from a mall resupply trip, or perhaps when returning from the other end of town late at night.  Walking is a way of life here, and I hope to come home needing new pants… (Note that the 6 taxis active on one block downtown, as shown in this photo, is a very common site)


Spanish school is unsettling at this point.  More on that once I can figure out just what I think about it, and perhaps make a change in my approach.

It is COLD here at night.  At least it seems that way to us.  We bought a room heater when we were here in February, and were pleased to have the apartment manager return it to us our first night here.  We have met other gringos that say they like the temperature though, so maybe we have just gotten soft.  Regardless, our heater is on from around 7PM through 9AM every night so far.

Rain is less predictable than we thought. On our February trip, it rains promptly at 4:00 every afternoon, and was done by 5:00.  This time we have had it rain at night, in the morning, in the afternoon, and not at all.  Local Cuencanas all say the weather cannot be predicted, and I am starting to believe they are right.

Gringos seem to be everywhere.  Walking down the street, most of the people are certainly locals, and Spanish is the most common language.  However, it seems you can’t walk more than 15 minutes before hearing another English conversation between couples, or see someone that is clearly a gringo — sometimes only a couple minutes between contacts.  We had dinner with an American that has lived in Mexico & Ecuador for the past 23 years, and she tells us that is because we are walking in the Central and Commercial districts, but that English is rarely heard where she lives.

Smoking is almost nonexistent.  I think I may have seen 4 or 5 men smoking cigarettes in week we have been here. No cigars and no women smokers. Yeah!

And let’s not forget to mention how friendly everyone here is.  At home, I eat at several restaurants for lunch, and after 7 years, do not know the names of any of the waiters, and have never once met anyone else eating in a restaurant, unless it was someone I knew from before.  We have been here less than a week, and have already met close to a dozen new friends, several of which we have followed to other venues, and exchanged emails with tips and hints.  It is taking me a little bit to get used to this new way of thinking about “strangers on the street.”

[Art + Food] Vampire’s Bite At Sofy’s Orchard

Benigno Malo 5-72 y Juan Jaramillo

Even more than most, Sofy’s Orchard is a hard-to-find restaurant. If we had not had that address in hand when looking for this new restaurant, we would have ended up eating elsewhere. We walked past it twice before counting off the address and found where it must be, finally finding it in the back of a courtyard of small stores.

They have only been open 2 months, but have already received very good reviews on several blogs.ย  The almuerzos was delicious, though at $4, it is twice as expensive as most other places in town.

One thing that sets this eatery apart is a new tradition of Friday afternoon modeling sessions.ย  These are free to anyone that wishes to come, though drinks and lunch are available for purchase.ย  Anyone is free to bring a camera or drawing/painting materials.ย  We went back today (Friday) for their theme of:

Vampire’s Bite

5 models came in from Mudo Dubujo, and they provided very professional modeling for all involved.ย  I counted 8 cameras and 7 pen/pencil artists among the audience.ย  I was one of the cameras, with Evelyn being one of the pen artists.

At one point, an extra bit of realism was inserted.ย  Near the end of one 15-minute pose of a woman being bitten by a vampire, the victim actually fainted!ย  All was well after a few minutes, and the show went on though.

Here are a couple of my photographs from this session, followed by a couple of Evelyn’s drawings fro this session:

[Food] Eucalyptus Cafe (Cuenca)

I was originally thinking of writing a post for every restaurant we ate at here in Cuenca, Ecuador.  It very quickly became clear that would really need a separate food/restaurant blog, and that it would not really be very interesting to most people.  Instead, I will try to create a post only for the really good restaurants that we visit.  That is, those that we plan on visiting again multiple times during the next few months.  I may do a summary post now and then on the other restaurants that we were not so thrilled about.

Without further ado, we present our first excellent candidate: Cafe Eucalypus:

Gran Columbia 9-41 y Benigno Malo

284-9157   or   091-001740

http://www.cafeeucalyptus.com/

Can you find the restaurant in that image above?  Is it open?  Very few restaurants in Cuenca have very much of a sign, so that half-hidden sign high up on the wall is actually better than most.  In looking at the sign though, I would have sworn the restaurant was closed, since all 3 doors below the sign are closed.  Nope. That open door on the far right is how you get into the restauant.

I neglected to take any photos of the interior, which is a shame (Note to self: photograph more than just the door and the food in the future!).  Very nice ambiance inside, covering two floors, and including a rather massively stocked bar. 

As with almost every restaurant we have visited this week, we had the place almost to ourselves.  There were two other gringo couples there, and that was it.  We have been told that this is the slow season, which is why several (other) restaurants are just now opening, so they can shake out the kinks before the crowds start arriving next month.

The food here was all absolutely excellent! The only negative was the house white wine — if you like wine, steer clear of this stuff that tastes like it was crushed last week…

The menu is much larger and more varied than anywhere else we have seen in Cuenca.  It included categories for soups, appetizers, spicy appetizers (yep, two groups just for appetizers), salads, pasta, seafood, beef, deserts, and curry.

We started with a fabulous vegetable soup.  It is common to have a large chunk of avacado floating at the top of many Ecuadorian soups, and this was no exception — I just forgot to take the photo until after we had cut it up and stirred it in…

We followed that up with a delicious…. you know, I think I need to start taking better notes, because I can’t remember what that was, but wow, did it taste good! ๐Ÿ™‚

The next table over had another gringo couple.  When their food arrived, I couldn’t resist asking if I could photograph it.  Thus, we met Betty and John from Klammath Falls, OR who are celebrating their 50th anniversary, and were traveling with an alumni group that came for Spanish classes. This was Jim’s meal of Malaysian Beef.

Betty had Tad Puy.

[Food] Mate de Coca — Cocaine For Altitude Sickness

Cuenca is at 8,200 ft elevation.  When we were young, we skied at that altitute all Winter.  Now, it is more of a challenge to walk 5 miles of hilly city at that altitute.  Breath sometimes comes a bit too fast, or the head is a little too light after standing up quickly.

Cocaine to the rescue!  Well, actually a tea available on many street corners made from a tincture of cocaine.  It is a wonderful cure for all things that bother you from the altitude.

I found a street urchin selling cocain derivatives near the Parca Calderon — the central park of Cuenca.  Most of his wares were mosquito repellant, which isn’t much use at this altitude.  But he did have the tea I was looking for.

“5 Dollars, senor.”

“No. <shake my head> Too mucn. <walk away>”

“4 Dollars for you. Special today.”

“<shake head> No. Tres Dollars ($3)”

“Ok, OK. For you, Tres dollars”

And so, I have the altitude sickness cure I need for $3 (which is actually about the right price, FWIW)

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