The past two weeks have been about trying to settle in, finding a routine, and feeling comfortable living in a city. To that end, I spent last weekend playing tourist. It’s a strange thing to go from pure cultural immersion, to taking the double-decker bus along with a group of other North Americans past my jogging path by the river. It’s like I’m moving between worlds. The world of tourist, and the world of inhabitant.
Where am I right now? Straddling the world of visitor and inhabitant. Trying to build a routine, but always knowing this is a temporary living arrangement. That pushes me to do and see as much as possible – and thus, be a tourist.
The double-decker tourist bus was a good orientation to the city. I know I’ve been here more than two weeks now, but I still don’t really know my way around. The bus helped me make the mental connections I need to be able to tour on foot, or to attempt the city bus system (an entire post dedicated to buses coming soon!)
The bus gave me a chance to see Cuenca from a new perspective – offering a glimpse into the upper stories of those colonial buildings and a closer look at those tile rooftops.
I also felt less self-conscious about taking photos while surrounded by a bunch of other tourists. When I’m wandering around on my own, I’m not always keen to take out the camera and take photos like this one. I guess there’s power in numbers.
After seeing that pig all decked out and ready for lunch, I had a big bowl veggie soup at one of the ‘Gringo’ restaurants.
One of the things I like about Cuenca are all the gorgeous plazas. Also, I have to say that Cuenca is, by far, the cleanest city I have ever visited in Latin America – there are always people sweeping sidewalks and picking up trash. The Cuencanos have a lot of pride in this city.
One of my favorite stops on my ‘self-guided’ tour of Cuenca was the Pumapungo Museum. The museum is housed in a huge, modern building, and the inside is not really too exciting. But if you walk behind the museum, you’ll find yourself in one of Ecuador’s largest archeological sites – the remnants of the Inca city of Tomebamba.
About 10 years ago, I visited Machu Picchu in Peru. If your primary goal in visiting South America is to see Inca ruins, that’s where you want to go – it is utterly amazing. In Ecuador, the most famous Inca ruins are at Ingapirca, about an hour or two north of Cuenca (and you know that I’ll be heading up there at some point). But the ruins here in Cuenca are still impressive – and worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.
Aside the ruins of Tomebamba, there is a demonstration herbal, medicinal, and vegetable garden – that was fun to explore, especially with no one else there!