The last couple of days in Cuenca were quite relaxed and included one day of retail therapy and one of going to the Pumapungo museum and then having a last wander around the city. The museum houses collections relating to the various regional cultures of Ecuador and included several well preserved shrunken heads. The ruins of the ancient city of the Incas and Kanaris, the local tribe with whom the Incas collaborated, are located outside it.
On the way to the museum, I investigated streets I hadn’t been along previously and chanced upon a local market, where there were many basket stalls, as well as ones selling an assortment of household items. I sat for a while and watched as the many individual vendors, carrying their wares, passed through the plaza trying to sell their goods.
After visiting the museum, I had the best lunch I had had so far and was joined at my table by an Ecuadorian dentist, who was attending a course in Cuenca. He had seen me entering the restaurant and decided I was a good opportunity to practise his English, so followed me in!
That evening I joined Carmen for a concert of choral music at Teatro Sucre. The choir comprised various ex pats (not just American) and it was probably their first concert. They were in time with the music most of the time! Afterwards, we adjourned to a bar for a wine or two.
When I returned home, Pilar and her friend, Suli, were still up and, at Pilar’s insistence, we ended up drinking ready mixed pina colada, so it was quite late before actually got to bed. Suli visits once a month to give massages to Cuencans and Pilar makes the appointments and translates for the non Spanish speaking Americans. We had had one or two girls’ nights together as I was the only guest. Suli had also insisted on colouring both my and Pilar’s hair as well so it has been rather like living in a shared flat again. I was assured, when I said goodbye, that I now had two sisters in Ecuador!
Friday was departure day and I met Carmen downstairs at 7am to go to the bus station for an early bus to Loja, five hours away in the south. The journey took us through magnificent mountain scenery and up and over some extremely high passes. The bus was supposedly executive although didn’t quite conform to my idea of executive! However, it was comfortable enough and we arrived in Loja earlier than anticipated. Luckily, we connected immediately with a bus to Vilcabamba and the short drive (relatively speaking) meant we reached our destination at about 2pm.
The countryside is beautiful with lush green mountains all around. We checked into the Hosteria Izcayluma, and relaxed. The place has an area dedicated for yoga and at 4pm there was a session with Tibetan bowls that we decided to attend. The experience was well worth it as we lay on the floor and listened to the vibrations from the sound of the bowls being played and the birds in the trees in the background. It was most restful and I could have lain there much longer. Unfortunately, the man playing the bowls could only speak Spanish so I missed a lot of the informative chat about it afterwards.
The day finished with dinner in the restaurant with Angela, who had already been here for a couple of days, and Carmen, followed by a very early night, as I was quite tired after my late night/early morning.