With a touch of romantic sadness we farewell Quito, already having extended our stay but alas, we must move on. Our journey takes us to Rio Bamba, in the Chimborazo province, the site of the highest mountain in Ecuador: Volcan Chimborazo. But this is a fleeting stay, spoiled by the grandeur that is Quito, this otherwise pretty town is not scratching it where we need it so it’s just a quick stopover before we head off to our more sought after destination, Cuenca. Cuenca is noted for its colonial beauty and Spanish classes; we’re due for a top up on our Spanish education so the quick move allows for time to stop and relax for about a week.
So what about Cuenca? We check in and dump the bags before heading out for a quick little jaunt along the river. First impressions are spot on, we see an abundance of beautiful street-scapes not unlike a smaller version of Quito with a small but beautiful river dissecting the town. With grassy banks it’s clean, picturesque and a great touch to what is quite a decent size city that feels more quaint and comforting than imposing, as cities often can. It’s on the banks of the river that we stumble into our first establishment outside the hostel, funny, frightening and funny again: in a frightening kind of way.
Inca bar, what to say about Inca bar? Well the place was nice but allow me a little licence in describing the setting if I may. We walk past Charlton Heston tuning Sarah Palin to sit at our table next to Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the pro-life lobby. There’s Hugh Heffner drawing thoughtfully on a cigarette emblazoned by every characteristic that defines American indignity in displaying relative wealth in a poorer country. Old greasy looking white men really shouldn’t indulge in using youth language in a display of social ‘cool’ while masquerading for Will Ferrell provocative sexiness a’la Blades of Glory (cue spine shivers). Through the usual collection of hollywood style hookers and wanna-be cheerleaders we order a burger and salad from a refreshingly lovely Ecuadorian girl, apparently ‘one of my girls’ according to Moe Sizlac. Yes, we’re basically in the middle of ignorant self interested middle America, it feels like a republican fundraiser, I keep waiting to overhear a discussion about how ‘we’ need to save another resource rich country: for their people of course, being so altruistic and all. For these little latte lefties we’re in a swamp of red state decay and we’re corroding rapidly. But it’s so offensive, so acute and unbelievably cliche it soon becomes inoffensive and humorously sad. Instead of being in the midst of a KKK…. sorry, NRA gathering, we’re more on the set of the Chaser, where’s Chris Taylor when you need him? The food was nice I have to admit but none the less we scurry out of there choking back the urge to scream ‘Hillary for president’ like a hangover vomit.
Wow, we wanted experiences and we got it. I know Australia has pretty much an equally bad element to our society, but for sheer comic offensiveness, America, in this respect you truly are a world leader. It resolves that Cuenca is known for it’s expat retiree community, we hadn’t noted that bit as yet so it kind of makes sense I guess. As in Cancun, I wonder if Inca Bar is a fly trap for tourist poo, it can only be: it defines the concept. The real question is: is the trap big enough?
Despite the comedy that was Inca bar, Cuenca is showing plenty enough to override the frightening experiences of our short trip to the deep south. As in Quito, albeit on a smaller scale, the streets here gush forth a romantic torrent of visual sustenance, an invasive excitement as incessant as breathing. We get the feeling that the game of avoid-the-americans will be ever present but wholly overrun by the city itself. The parks and plazas are truly graceful while the history and grandeur of the architecture displays a wealth and elaborateness that is impossible to be immune to, it’s infectious.
And halelujah, we’re pleased to report, we have coffee: I repeat, we have coffee, well a piccolo more or less the way we like it at least. We’re conscious not to say that brewed coffee (known as Americano here) is necessarily bad but geez it’s hard to see the appeal, just different tastes I guess. This in itself is enough to bump Cuenca up another few notches. We also have a comfy bed, a good size room and no trace of the other bugbear thus far, we have a shower with hot water. Don’t get me started on zero water pressure of just-off-freezing water in the showers. Yes I believe we’ll be happy little piggies in Cuenca.