After a pre-dawn departure out of Chugchilán, a highly satisfying side-of-the-highway bus connection near Latacunga*, and a long and stunning ride through central and southern Ecuador, we pulled into Cuenca around 3 pm. We traveled through the narrow streets to Casa Macondo, one of the loveliest places we have stayed so far. In addition to a comfortable room and really good breakfast, Casa Macondo had a magical garden complete with two tiny, amazing kittens. I wished we could have stayed longer for the kittens alone.
Alas, our time in Cuenca was short but sweet. We headed out in search of some much needed sustenance, and landed first in a Colombian restaurant (semi-inadvertently, but it was a tasty and happy throwback!) and then in a cute coffee shop where we shared a slice of carrot cake, a cappuccino and a round of cards.
We spent the balance of the afternoon exploring this decidedly charming city built around the Tomebamba river. The old colonial center teemed with tourists and locals eating ice creams and enjoying the beautiful architecture. Steps leading down to the riverfront served as the venue for exercising youths and pro-instagrammers, and on the south side of the city, we found a really excellent public park (did you know we like public parks). Parque de la Madre (hooray for moms) was filled with joggers, kids, impromptu dance classes, and a great looking planetarium. We ventured further and shared some Czech-style beers in a local brewery before heading back to our neighborhood to split a few pizzas.
It occurs to me that this post sounds like we conducted an eating tour of Cuenca. You could call it that. Or, a day in the life of Drew and Sara.
The next morning, leftover pizza in hand, we headed back to the bus station and caught a bus onward towards the southern border – next stop, Peru!
*If you’re looking for a way to get from the Quilotoa loop to Cuenca, there is very little information about this online. We’re here to help! Catch your bus towards Latacunga (be waiting early – our “6 am” bus left Chugchilán at 5:50 am) and ask the bus driver to drop you off at the “Paso Lateral” about 5km west of (that is, prior to) Latacunga. They’ll know what you’re talking about. At this roundabout, southbound buses will pass by and bus attendants will be hanging out the door shouting their destination and looking for passengers (you’re unlikely to be the only one). By all accounts, Cuenca buses pass by about every half hour, though we connected immediately after disembarking from our first bus. The bus we were on had a bathroom and USB outlets (rare, delightful luxuries) and from this roundabout to Cuenca took about 7 hrs through gorgeous scenery. The Chugchilán-to-Latacunga bus cost about $2.50 per person; the Cuenca bus cost $10 per person.