July 7 – 8
The ferry left at 6, so we had to be at the dock at 5:30. The alarm rang at 5 and we quickly packed up and made the 10 minute walk to the dock. There, they checked our bags again and gave us little tags to wear that showed what boat we were taking. This boat was a little bigger than the one we took to get there and, luckily, we were put on the taxi boat last, which mean we got off first and had our pick of seats. I picked some in the back near the motor knowing that we might get a little wet. Worth it though for the breeze and being able to see the horizon which helps with motion sickness. The ferry felt shorter than the first and wasn’t quite as bumpy though Ethan says he didn’t feel so great at the end. On the ferry we had noticed a couple carrying biking bags, so we wondered if they were touring South America.
When we got off the ferry Ethan approached them and turns out they were at the end of a 13 month tour that started in Alaska. Amazing. We congratulated them and then they asked if we were going to the airport. So we ended up trying to figure out how to get the bus with them and lucky for us they spoke Spanish so we were able to figure out how to get to the bus station via taxi and that the last bus was leaving in like 30 minutes. Nice! They were super nice and paid for the taxi and we ended up talking with them all the way to the airport and since we were all super early for our flights, we had breakfast with them too. Their names were Joseph and Christina from Switzerland and we ended up talking about all kinds of stuff while we waited. Their flight was an hour before ours, so we said our goodbyes and had to wait another 30 minutes before we could even check in. Surprisingly, there’s a lounge at the tiny airport so we went there and ate a bunch of snacks before our flight. Seriously life saving those lounges.
The flight felt pretty short and we both got super excited as we descended into Quito and saw the gorgeous mountains. Upon landing we got our bags and headed to a lounge that was accessible before you got to security. We just wanted to hang out and eat some snacks before we got on the the bus for 10 hours, but they also had showers. Hooray! We both showered quickly, used the wifi a bit and stole a bunch of snacks for the bus ride. From the airport we took a public bus to the main bus station. Quito is a huge, holly city so this took about 1.5 hrs. The city just kept going and going. So big. The bus station is also huge. There are pretty much two stations – one for local buses and one for long-distance buses. To get to the long distance bus terminal we had to pay .25 cents to enter the local bus terminal. It was very confusing and no one speaks English. We figured it out though and provided some quality entertainment for the locals nearby.
We got to the long distance terminal and thought about going to the bathroom but didn’t since there was one on the bus and it cost .15 cents; at least that’s what we had read. Fingers crossed.
I can’t remember if I said this, but we were headed for Cuenca, which is in southern Ecuador and is where our friend Alex from high school lives with her husband. We weren’t sure if they would be there when we were in Ecuador so we booked our flight to Quito instead of the closer town of Guayaquil, which is only 3-4 hrs from Cuenca. But when we found out they would be there, we decided to go even though it would be a really long bus ride.
So Alex and Francisco recommended a bus company which we found quite quickly at the station. It was about 7:45 and the next bus left at 8:30. We got our tickets which were $12 each plus .20 cent ticket fee each (weird). And headed out to where the bus would be. When the bus finally arrived we were like “oh good. We really have to pee.” So we get on and there’s this guy who appears to be directing people. He looks at our receipt and points to these seats in the back even though we chose our seats when we bought the tickets. So we sat in the seats we chose and he just kinda walked away. Then I went to use the toilet and he’s like (in Spanish) “No. Go back into the terminal.” But we had already given our tickets to a guy when we exited the building so I didn’t know how I would get back out to the bus without a ticket. We were so confused. And then the guy just got off the bus and left. So Ethan went to try the bathroom and thought it was locked. Turns out it’s just really hard to open, but we were really freaking out thinking like “what if the bus just doesn’t stop. We’ll pee our pants!” But the bus did stop and we figured out how to get into the bathroom. It was quite the adventure.
The bus left and 8:45pm and got to Cuenca at 5:15am, which was much earlier than we were expecting. Francisco, Alex’s husband, was coming to get us at 8:15, so we bundled up and found some seats to wait. We had no wifi, so we had no way of notifying him that we were early. Oh well. We’ve waited for longer and in much worse conditions.
Cuenca is high up in the mountains so it was really cold that early in the morning. I was super glad we brought a few warm things to wear. And I was also so excited to be cold. All the places we visit are hot and as you I’m sure know by now… I hate being hot. The temperature in Cuenca is like 60-65° all year round. My dream come true.
Francisco was there at 8:15 and felt super bad that we had to wait that long, but we told him “No Worries! We’re just excited to be here!” He took us to a little fruit stand to get some fruit for breakfast and I have never been so excited about breakfast. He got some fruits we’ve never had and papaya, which is one of my favorite foods of all time. Yessss!! We also got some bread for toast and when we got to their house he made us a lovely breakfast which we both were soooo grateful for. Especially since breakfast for the last week had been squishy bread and jam and Clif Bars.
After breakfast and chatting with Francisco a bit, we laid down to nap a little and get caught up with all things online until Alex got out of work at 1. We went to pick her up at the University where she and Francisco work then went into old Cuenca to see some sights. We saw the main Cathedral and this beautiful old Spanish style house. We had lunch and a cute little Mexican restaurant that was amaaaazing. After lunch we went back to the Cathedral for a tour that was $3 each. While we waited for the tour to begin we got these “ice cream” cones outside. They are like a fruity merengue so not actually ice cream but it looks like it and Francisco said that’s the only reason he went to church as a kid. They were delicious.
The tour took us underneath the church into the catacombs where rich people and priests are buried. Then we went inside to see some of the cool details of the church like the gold alter and the marble floors. Then we walked 150 steps up to the top where you can see the domes of the church and a great view of the surrounding city.
We walked around Old Cuenca to see the flower market and where people sell their handicrafts. We checked out an Incan Ruin site and a weird aviary that had colorful macaws, some eagles and hawks. It was kinda weird and Francisco, who has lived in Cuenca his whole life, had never been there and had no idea why they birds were there. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ We went up to Turi, which is an overlook of the city. There are a bunch of shops and restaurants as well as a giant swing that’s like $10/ person. We didn’t do the swing, but it did buy a hat because it was a bit colder than I thought it would be.
We finished off the evening with a trip to a real life grocery store (such a treat), homemade fajitas and the largest bowl of homemade guacamole I’ve ever seen. It was all delicious and we went to bed on very full tummies. Which was good since we planned to hike in the national park in the mountains the next day.