Before our marathon week in Galapagos we wanted to settle down somewhere for a few days and just relax. We had planned to do this in Banos, but after 2 nights there we quickly decided it wasn’t the place for us and so we moved onwards taking in an overnight stay at Alausi for the Devil’s Nose train ride.
And so we arrived at Cuenca, described as a UNESCO city filled with pretty buildings and streets. Big enough to give you plenty to explore, yet small enough to not feel like you are in a huge city.
We had pre-booked ourselves into the Hostel el Monasterio, overlooking the beautiful old cathedral and after arrival decided to stay for 5 nights. The hostel is conveniently located to take in the 2 cathedrals of Cuenca, the historic centre and the nearby food market. Perfect for us!
Despite wanting to get away from it for a few days our first night at the hostel unfolded into a bit of a drama. It was one of the churches feast day and as such there were processions in the evening followed by fireworks. However, we noticed that this abruptly ended and we started to smell smoke.
Looking out from our bedroom window we could see smoke coming from the front of the old cathedral and hurried round to the balcony at the front of the hostel for a better look. What transcribed were several hours of dozens of fire-fighters trying to put the fire out. At first we weren’t sure if it was the actual cathedral that was on fire or not, but we later learned that luckily the fire was in a building opposite the old cathedral.
However, despite the fire-fighters best effort the monastery behind the cathedral did not come off unscathed and suffered some damage on some of its side buildings. The cause of fire was apparently due to a dodgy firework which had not properly exploded when it took off. Sadly, the buildings that caught fire were of colonial heritage and invariably caused a loss to the city.
The rest of our time in Cuenca went by without any more dramas, we were able to go for walks around the city, relax at the hostel and shop at the local market for fruit and vegetables. One thing we noticed about Cuenca was the array of health shops and the large variety of vegetarian supplies, including frozen soya meat products. Something we had not encountered in other countries so, needless to say, we had a feast of good food during our stay!
The one thing we didn’t get round to doing was to go and pay the nearby thermal pools a visit. Apparently, they are located a 30 minutes bus ride away and have varying price ranges from spa to free pools.
Once our rest time had come to an end we took a 5 hour bus ride to Guayaquil, we didn’t want to spend long here and so arrived in the afternoon with the intention of just staying night before our flight to Galapagos.