Thursday, 11 May 2017

Weekend Exploring

Saturday 8th April 2017

Today we decided to go in search of some well known craft markets near Cuenca. We hopped on a bus which took us first to Gualaceo. Gualaceo is a small market town about an hour from Cuenca and is well known for it's shoes and Chancho (pig/pork).
We arrived at about 10am and hopped off the bus to a slightly warmer climate than Cuenca and went in search of the markets. Unfortunately we couldn't find the markets (we decided they must be on Sunday instead) but we did find a very pretty, tranquil river. We explored the town for a while where there was a lovely church and town square. By about 12pm we decided we'd explored the small town enough and were getting hungry, so we got on another bus which took us to an even smaller market town called Chordeleg.

 It was a short 15-20 minute bus ride to the tiny, picturesque village. As soon as we got off the bus we found a cute, quirky place for lunch. It was called 'La Cabaña' and was owned by an Argentinian man who was also the sole chef. The food was absolutely delicious and so reasonably priced! $3 for a homemade Lasagne and $1 for an Empanada (all made by hand, then and there whilst we waited).

Once we'd filled our bellies, we explored the gorgeous town. The streets surrounding the town square were lined with the many jewellery shops that the tiny town is famous for. Coincidentallly, the first jewellery shop we encountered was called 'Georgia' so of course we had to go in... I bought a gorgeous pair of earrings in the shapes of butterfly wings and some plain sparkly studs.

We explored the picturesque town for the afternoon, glad we had been to the first jewellery shop we'd seen or we would have been there for days choosing jewellery!

After exploring all the touristy shops and buying some delicious bread for the bus ride home, we found a direct bus to Cuenca and headed back. Out of Gualaceo and Chordeleg I would definitely recommend Chordeleg for it's picturesque surroundings and charming village although Gualaceo is worth a visit too.

13th - 16th April - Easter Weekend Trip to Baños

This year Easter was a little different for me since I couldn't be in New Zealand spending the weekend gourging on chocolate and hot cross buns and spending time with family. Instead, I was off to a small adventure town in Ecuador called Baños, more or less near the middle of Ecuador.

Easter in Ecuador is a little different to New Zealand and instead of Hot Cross Buns and chocolate Easter eggs they have a traditional soup known as 'Fanesca' - which Cuenca is particularly well known for. The soup is rather complicated and contains twelve different types of beans and grains - said to represent the 12 apostles, Bacalao (salted cod) soaked in milk and is usually topped with sliced avocado and boiled egg.

My host family ate this over the holy week and saved me some for when I returned from my trip to Baños. Overall, I thought the soup tasted pretty good (although you can'y beat a toasted Hot Crosss Bun with melted butter in my opinion).

Due to 'Semana Santa' (Holy Week), most of us had the Thursday and Friday off work so 7 of us decided to head north to Baños. We left on the bus at 8.45a on Thursday and what was supposed to be a 7 hour bus ride turned into a 10 hour one when the bus broke down 30 minutes from our destination... welcome to Ecuador! We sat in the bus waiting for 2 hours before they got a taxi/ute to drive us into the town.

We arrived around 7pm and walked to our hostal. We stayed at the 'Plantas y Blanco' hostel in two rooms of 3 and 4. We met up with the volunteers from Quito and headed into town to find something to eat. We were all pretty tired so didn't stay up too late. We found a cool burger place which was comic themed (see pictures below) and headed to a bar for a free, flaming, rainbow shot and then chilled in another quiet bar which was 'Simpsons' themed.

The next day the adventure began! It started with breakfast at a small cafe before some of the brave ones involved themselves in an activity known as 'Puenting' which can basically be described as jumping from a bridge and swing (like bungee jumping but without the bounce... I'll let the video explain that! (Unfortunately I was not brave enough for that so here's a video of one of the other volunteers Katy doing it ☺)

After the brave ones had bridge jumped, a few of us decided to go ziplining! I was one of these people and it was absolutely wicked fun! We got to fly like superman, climb a 90m vertical rock face and tandem zipline to the end. Watch the video below to see what we did (disclaimer: video isn't of us)

Following an adrenalin packed morning we were pretty hungry so whilst some people went quad-biking and buggying, Bethyn, Ruby and I went and got ourselves some lunch. Later that evening we saved ourselves some money by cooking up a delicious stir-fry at the hostal in the small kitchen on the roof terrace (mostly thanks to Anna and Katy's wonderful cooking skills!). We spent the evening chilling and chatting before heading back to our rooms to sleep.

On Saturday we kept things a little more low key since unfortunately Katy was pretty sick (on her birthday! 😞). In the afternoon we took the bus up to the well-known 'Casa Del Arbol' although we didnt go on the actual swing attached to the treehouse as we didn't have time to wait in long lines. Instead we went on one of the other (just as good) swings and admired the view over the valley.

For the rest of the day we just relaxed. In the evening we went to the thermal baths that Baños is well known for. It cost us $3 to get in and upon entry we encountered the murky water filled with colourful heads due to the compulsory swimming caps...just believeme when i say we looked 10/10 haha. Afterwards we quickly aadmired the waterfall that feeds the thermal pools before having some dinner and a drink at the hostal until the restaurant closed and we went to bed.

On Sunday, we packed up our things and travelled home, arriving back in Cuenca around 5pm.

Overall, despite Easter being different to what we experience in New Zealand it was still a wicked fun time and don't think many other people can say they spent their easter weekend ziplining through an 850m canyon at more than 100kmh!

Sorry for the delayed post...
Georgia xx

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