Two Who Trek take an overall look at the city
As we prepare to wrap up our posts about Cuenca, we realized that we haven’t shown much about the day-to-day life in the city. Today we will look at some common city scenes.
Cuenca is actually the short name. Its true name is Santa Ana de los Cuatro Rios de Cuenca, named for the four rivers that run through the city. The word Cuenca means “river basin” in Spanish.
A view of one of the four rivers in Cuenca, but not the Tomebamba
Founded in the mid-16th century by the Spanish, Cuenca is now the third largest city in Ecuador, with a population of about 500,000. It is considered the cultural center of the country.
Cuenca is in a plain in an Andean mountain valley. It is almost 8,400 feet above sea level (or 2,530 meters, for you metric fans). The altitude provides favorable living conditions by keeping the year round temperatures moderate. There is no need for heating or air conditioning.
To get a better view of the city, we took a $2 taxi ride south to the village of Turi, about 4 kilometers away.
The village at Turi, south of Cuenca
From the Mirador de Turi (or viewpoint of Turi) one has an excellent view of the town. In the closer shot you can see the red tile roofs for which the city is famous:
A view of Cuenca from Turi, looking at the mountains to the northwest
Looking west to north west at the mountains that lead to Cajas National Park
This is looking almost due north at Cuenca
A view of Cuenca from Turi, looking northeast
A view of Cuenca, looking toward the northeast, from Turi
A closer view of downtown. The three steeples close together are the New Cathedral, in the heart of the historic city center
Speaking of downtown, let’s head back to the historic city center. Here is one of Joe’s favorite photos:
The Catedral de la Immaculada Concepcion is also known as the “New Cathedral” (although construction started in 1885). The gazebo is in the city’s largest plaza, the Parque Calderon.
To get to the historic city center from our part of town, we had to climb up the sides of the cliff. This stairway was one of the reasons we often chose to take a taxi into town most mornings:
The historic city center of Cuenca is on a butte or cliff. We had to climb these 89 steps to get up to the level of the center and the school (yes, we counted them). The steps were much easier going down than up.
A small Inca or Canaris ruin, on the cliff side. We are atop, in the old city looking toward the new part of Cuenca. Yes, it is raining.
The city has work crews continually maintaining the infrastructure. We’ll let the photo captions do most of the talking:
One of the many Cuenca street cleaners. The city’s streets were quite tidy.
A road crew replaces paving bricks in the roadway. No warning signs are posted for oncoming traffic (to the left of the workers), nor are there safety barriers for the road workers. Drivers just pay attention and avoid the workers in the road.
A city crew has stacked the materials on the corner and is repairing the sidewalk. Notice there are no signs for pedestrians or safety barriers for the workers. Always be alert for another unanticipated obstacle when walking in Cuenca.
Vendors and shops
The city is alive with shops and vendors, many on the street. Often we would see people pushing wheelbarrows full of Chilean cherries, selling them for $2.50 per kilo. Other vendors had pedal or push carts like this:
A vendor in native costume sells fruit slices from her pushcart on a downtown street.
Pedal cart vendor
When taking a taxi to school in the morning, we would see this vendor, dressed in a traditional Cuenca costume, selling unrefrigerated fresh milk right out of 30 gallon milk cans. By the time we were done with school and lunch, she would be gone, having wrapped up work for the day
The store front of a party decorations store. Many of the stores downtown are narrow and deep.
Just what every home barbecue needs – a Cuy Roaster, to roast four cuy (guinea pigs) at a time!
A sidewalk booth near the market
Baskets for sale by a sidewalk vendor
Rows of vendor booths at the 9 de Octobre market
Sherri’s favorite bakery, La Casa del Pan
An interesting building we passed on our way to and from school. The texture is really paint.
A view from our school, looking west, to the red tile roofs and the San Sebastian church.
The city is also filled with many museums and churches. We’ve covered some of those in earlier posts.
The green terraces are part of the Pumapungo Inca ruins in Cuenca.
Overall, the city is full of interesting sights and sounds. Cuenca is beautiful and fascinating, a great place to be — even if only for a month!