Ecuador, We Got The Fever And Its Calling Us Back

Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca, Ecuador is surrounded by mountains on all sides, 8,366 feet above sea level. Yes!!!!

We have been thinking about moving abroad. Nothing really "tripped out triggers", ......then....... we landed in Ecuador.
You might have felt that connection with a place you visited, even if you have no intention of moving.
You're there   it feels good,    then you think.....    "I could live here"!
Well, we got that "feelin'" the "fever" from Ecuador.

Okay, and it's cheap to live there, at least for now. $o this is a big factor for us, we still have to work AND we're not rich. The stars are aligning, and we are planning our move- Mort "The Snort" will be coming too, of course!

In this post, (Ecuador, part I) I want to share just an overview of one of our three trips to Ecuador.

​Like any country, it continues to change and I will give you a more in depth look into moving abroad and Ecuador once we arrive (Part II).
For now, I'll share some pictures; offer some recommendations; share other reasons why Ecuador is
the chosen one!

Let's get this out the way......I'm not eating a guinea pig.

Okay, in case your curious about the guinea pigs, here's the story, but there will NO pictures of grilled Cuy.

Cuy ( pronounced Kew-y) is a delicacy in Ecuador. We were told that it is mostly offered by the kart people during holidays, festivals and special events. 

Why guinea pigs?
Tradition for one. Historically, they were a main source of meat and protein before cattle were introduced to the country AND they reproduce fast. We don't know what it taste like, but I heard greasy chicken- NUM!

I couldn't understand why I kept seeing these small, old women and men, hauling VERY large bundles of grass up and down the hills on their backs. Cuy Food. 
Enough, let's move on.

We have visited Cuenca three times now with a short trip to Quito and Vilcabama, more about those cities in Part II.

We flew into Quito twice, stayed over night at the Quito Airport Suites ( links to recommendations will be at the end) just 10 minutes away from the airport! The flight from Quito to Cuenca is approximately 35 minutes.

You CAN fly into Guayaquil and take a van to Cuenca, BUT unless you are...... 
a- person-seeking- risky-life- threatening- maneuvers while INSIDE A VAN, I DO NOT SUGGEST IT!


Here's Why....(And by the way, you can play with the above map) 

The road takes you through the canyons of the Cajas National Park with wild hair pin turns which seem to go unnoticed by the drivers.

Let's see, could there be Boulders? Cars? Wildlife? Just around that next turn?
No need to slow down OR Stay in your lane!
Oh, yeah and its almost ALWAYS FOGGY!

I closed my eyes for awhile, too scary to watch, then got woozy, then got slammed by another white knuckled passenger in the seat next to us.
That's Why....

The trip, via the Cajas Nat'l Park takes about 3.5 hours.
I believe there have been some improvements with the van companies now, for one, the city decided they needed a license to run their business. Uh-Yeah.

We will be taking the bus or a private driver if we ever have to go take that route again.
You can fly into Cuenca (which is best, unless you have a lot of luggage)  or take a longer way around the mountain range through Canar which can take roughly 5 hours, I was told.

Moving on......
Cuenca is a city of four rivers. The main river in town is called Tomebamba (below) which divides the older and newer areas of (El Centro).

cuenca Ecuador

It has wonderful walking/running paths, picnic areas, exercise equipment and many locals still wash their clothes in this river. A favorite nap spot for us!

We decided to stay in different areas of city with each visit, and found that was a good way to locate new shops and restaurants.  

First and foremost Ecuadorians are extremely friendly and not just in restaurants and hotels.

Okay, here is a few things we love......

Street Art Ecuador

Art....Free Expression....Music......Flower Markets......Sweet Smells of Bakeries.......
Great Weather............Exceptional Restaurants

Street Art Ecuador
Guitars Hand Crafted in Ecuador
Master Guitar Makers Near Cuenca In San Bartolome 
Guitars Hand Crafted in Ecuador
Creating The Design
Cuenca, Ecuador
Free Museum, Art, History And Shrunken Heads

Markets!! Veggies, Spices, Clothing, Blankets, Meat, Fish, Sweeeeeeeets!

Markets in Cuenca Ecuador
Markets in Cuenca Ecuador
Fabric Market Cuenca Ecuador


What else?

$$ of living:  Okay, yeah, like I said above we need to lay low for while, but we have to a few real estate dudes who still claim we can get a rental home outside the city, for $400 a month- furnished! 
We just need good internet. PuntoNet, the company supplying the fiber optic networks is expanding neighborhood by neighborhood, good news! 

.25 bus fare: Yup!! At the time of this post (2017) the fare is still .25 cents and .12 cents for retirees.

Now what's amazing, is the distance and routes that these buses cover, miles out of the city! Still at .25 cents. There is a new city Tram going in (Tranvia) with hopes of completion in 2018. I was told buses will not be retired, instead they will add even more routes to the system outside the city. Good for residents, good for the drivers.  

Healthcare: The insurance coverage appears to be cheap, but ever changing, so we'll let you know! We have heard nothing but positives from the gringo communities regarding the medical profession and facilities. They do have a Mount Sinai Hospital, Cancer Centers, Pharmacies, including compounding and geez, you can get your teeth cleaned for $25!

FOOD:  FOOD = FRESH = CHEAP = GOOD in Cuenca!

Three course lunches with juice still average around $3.50. There is a wonderful variety and each time we go, some restaurants have closed, some new ones have emerged. More in Part II, this is one subject we are happy to research further- We'll get back to ya!

For The Love Of Animals: Of course we will be connected and help anyway we can. Below is a fundraiser we attended on one of our trips. Below that, a banner for a run/walk fundraiser. 

Fundraiser for animals in Ecuador
Fundrasier For Rescate Animal Cuenca. Yes, REAL CANDLES, REAL FLAMES!!
Cuenca, Ecuador

If you would like help the stranded, lost or abused animals of Cuenca and Ecuador here are some links. They all offer volunteer positions. As I have stated before, before heading out to our travel destinations we "Google" the city to find the animal rescue shelters and see if we help for a day, bring some items they may need, or attend a fund raising event.
Another sweet advantage of volunteering, is you get to meet the locals!

Who better to give advice on great restaurants, things to do, etc! We are still connected with many of these people, formed lasting friendships and even meet up in our travels! LOVE WIN-WIN'S

Here is a rescue shelter started by a expat that moved there in 2011~LINK HERE

Here is a rescue site for all of Ecuador, if it is not "auto" translated for you, there is a little Google translate button in the upper right hand search screen, just select that. Ecuador Helps Animals

Here is a facebook group for Rescate Animal Cuenca VIEW HERE

Continuing..................

Hiking And Biking: Yes And Yes! Being Colorado folks, its in the blood. We did take a city bike tour ( had a few hills) and I will put the link below. I also just found this link for the a wonderful 5 mile ride along the river Tomebamba, click here: TRAIL

Cajas National Park is about 40 minutes outside of Cuenca. We have not visited there yet because we pretty much knew after our first Visit to Ecuador that we would be living there, and would have plenty of time to check it out. In fact, we have an friend who lives in Cuenca and hikes there once a week. There are plenty of areas to explore and we will be sure to share!

The Weather! I'm a weather wimp, in other words, I can't handle extreme cold or hot, but enjoy being outside whenever possible. No need for Heat or Air Conditioning!!

It stays around 64 to 72 degrees, Fahrenheit, all year round- Perfect!
There is a rainy season which occurs from January to May, but that fluctuates too. The three trips we took were in February, March and May and I remember on day of rain, otherwise warm/cool.

Safety: We felt safe walking around the city day or night. I have heard that it is important to keep anti-theft bags or money belts on the buses. There are reports of petty theft. We have not ridden on the buses-yet,
We have not heard of any recent violent crime in Cuenca.
There is police presence and citizen police in the parks. They are friendly and I'm happy they are there!

Water: So far so good in Cuenca, that is. I was told it is okay to drink in Cuenca and Cotacachi. Love this!

OKAY IT'S NOT PARADISE.......................WHERE IS?

Here are the things ( so far ) that are negatives in our eyes:

  • THE COFFEE-- I do consider myself a coffee snob- whatever, I'll get over it, but not sure If I will buy instant.
    Nescafe is still served in most restaurants, its cheaper and less hassle.
    We were fine with the ground coffee we found in the Tienda's (stores). It was from Colombia and I believe the name was Cubanito. We also found a good coffee shop called Cafe' de Nucallacta.
    Coffee is grown in the mountains of Loja, Ecuador and I was told at least one coffee shop is buying these beans and serving wonderful coffee, we will check it out!
  • TAXI'S --It's a BIT a crazy!
    Pedestrians do not have the right away, please remember that, the taxi's really blast around the corners, It's just the way it is, so have good shoes, in case you have to run- HA!
  • BUS EXHAUST-- If this is something that bothers you and does me, I suggest bringing an old scarf to cover your nose and mouth as the buses go by. The city buses are very active and are diesel, so you get this whoosh of FUMY BLACK exhaust as they accelerate. There is talk of new Eco/People friendly buses in the future, but that will probably be awhile, in the meantime, bring a scarf!

Sooo, now let's count that up- THREE. I'm sure we'll have a few more, and we'll let you know-stay tuned!

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Located in the heart of Cuenca is  Arutam Ecotours. link HERE
We took the city bike tour and Artisan Village Tour which included the guitars of San Bartolome and much more! They have a wide variety of tours. Great folks!!

Quito Airport Suites- We have stayed here three times. It is about 8 minutes from the airport. A bit rustic, but they are improving all the time and very friendly and accommodating. The link is HERE

Many wonderful spots to stay, but we LOVED Casa Ordonez, Fabulous!!!! Family owned and you will feel special in every way, really a treat! Find them HERE.

Hope you vist Ecuador! It is LOVELY! Please sign up below for Updates!
AND....If you're going to move around Ecuador, here are some great tips for PACKING LIGHT  Check it out: HERE

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Ecuador

Hope you sign up for our mailing list so you can catch next episode, the move, Part II

​If you live in Ecuador or have visited, would love to have your thoughts and opinions. Please comment below.

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