It’s been over three months now, since I first arrived in this town/city (I’m not sure what to call it, by my standards it’s population numbers would make it a city, but it certainly doesn’t feel like one).
I got in from the coast and was happy to escape the heat, to a cooler mountain climate. Cuenca lies at around 2500 meters above sea level and it’s population comprises about 400 000 souls. One of the first impressions, was the fact that there are almost no tall buildings in it’s centre. Three, four storeys is the maximum, most stay below that. Cuenca’s old town is a fine example of colonial architecture in South America and is deservedly listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site. Despite of this, it’s not very touristy.
Another interesting feature of this town, is that it’s considered one of the most conservative in Ecuador, but being a university town, it came up with a sort of opposition movement, with clandestine arts exhibitions in abandoned buildings, plenty of underground Heavy Metal and Punks shows, or the extreme art at the Prohibido Centro Cultural. A very interesting mixture of different vibes, lifestyles and world views. One can find oneself talking to a local who complains about the noise of the church bells tolling on a Sunday morning, and another who loves it and goes to Mass every Sunday.
Due to it’s many parks and rivers (the full name is Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca), I even get to go bug-hunting in town. My favourite is the Parque el Paraiso, where I’ve come across some very interesting Insects. One can go for a walk by the river and visit the Incan ruins of Pumapungo, all in downtown Cuenca. A good city to be in, even if one isn’t a city person. “Getting out” for a day is also easily done. Gíron with it’s El Chorro waterfall, the Pachamama tableland, the Cajas National Park or the Incan ruins of Ingapirca, are all awesome day-trips. I think I’ll hang around for a while yet.