Typical And Not So Typical Days In Cuenca

I am taking a Spanish class that meets 2 times a week.  It is about a mile from where we live and I love the leisurely 25-minute walk to and from.  Most of my walk is along Remigio Tamariz Crespo, a nice quiet street.  During my walks in the morning I like to practice that day’s lesson, but on this beautiful, clear July 20th morning, I decided to take pictures of my walk to class. 
1Cuenca7-20-15Walk2ClassRoofDogs*Don’t you just love the dogs on the roof!
3Cuenca7-20-15Walk2Class*Nice quiet street
4Cuenca7-20-15Walk2Class*Anyone want a Trek bike?
5Cuenca7-20-15Walk2Class*There are some beautiful  houses that line the street
6Cuenca7-20-15Walk2Class*And even a nursery!
11Cuenca7-20-15ClassPatio*This is where my class is held
Oh what a difference two days make!  The sky was clear and blue two days ago, but today it is raining.  We are in the rainy season and today let us know it.  We were going to a luncheon, with our friends Mario and Yolanda, put on by Fundacion Fanne, a foundation Mario and Yolanda are involved with.  We took a taxi, but because the street where the event was held, Ordonez Lasso, was all torn up the taxi couldn’t find the location. We got out several blocks away, and Mario called to have someone come and get us because we couldn’t find the new building. It was a rainy day, and with all the construction on the street it was very muddy. Once we got to the location we had a wonderful time at the foundation luncheon. 
4Cuenca7-22-15RainyDayOrdoñezLassoMarioMikeYolandaMario, Mike and Yolanda waiting for help to arrive!
3Cuenca7-22-15RainyDayOrdoñezLassoA rainy day
We love walking in Cuenca, especially going to Parque Calderón on weekends where they usually have live music of some sort and lots of families milling about and enjoying the day.
4Cuenca7-25-15ParqueCalderon*People enjoying the free music in the park
Parque Calderón is, without a doubt, Cuenca’s pride and joy. It is the city’s main plaza and is dominated by the largest structure in colonial Cuenca, Catedral Nueva, (New Cathedral), officially known as Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción. The cathedral was designed in the mid-1880s by German priest Juan Bautista Stiehle. Construction began in 1885 and, as often happens with cathedrals, it continued for nearly a century. Materials included alabaster and local red and pink marble for the façade, white marble imported from Carrara, Italy, for the interior floor. The distinctive blue tiles of the signature domes were imported from Czechoslovakia. The interior was finally completed in 1967. The giant sky-blue domes topping the Catedral Nueva are visible landmarks from all over Cuenca. We can even see them from our apartment windows.
1Cuenca7-29-15CathederalDomesColorizedThe blue domes of the new cathedral
My friend Rick Duda, who runs a number of educational tours in and around Cuenca (http://www.experiencecuencaecuador.com/), invited me to join him on a free outing sponsored by the city of Azogues and the tourism department. The tour was called “Project Know Your Destiny – A Visit To The Parish Luis Cordero.” Azogues is located just over 18 miles north of Cuenca, and although it has the look and feel of a bigger city it is without the usual tourist traffic. Azogues is a major exporter of Panama hats.
AzoguesMapCuenca is bottom left and Azogues is top right
I met him at his place on Calle Larga at 6:15 in the morning on July 26th.  It was so early there were no cars on this normally very busy street. We caught a taxi to the bus terminal where we rode a bus the 18 or so miles to Azogues at a cost of $.85.
1Cuenca7-26-15CalleLargaMorning copy6:15 in the morning on Calle Larga
Rather than taking a taxi to where the tour met, we decided to walk. The short walk took us along a river where we skirted the town for a short distance before heading into town and up to the plaza. 
4Azogues7-26-15River copyThe river we walked along
There were two buses packed with young and old people excited about the day’s adventure. Rick and I were the only expats, although there were 2 or 3 others who spoke English. Both Rick and I thought this was just going to be a ride to several different areas to see various sights, never realizing the day would end up with “mountain climbing” and “spelunking”!
We headed off, arriving first at the little plaza in front of Iglesia de San Alfonso. The church of San Alfonso is located in the parish of Cojitambo, west of the city of Azogues, and was built in 1957. From there we headed down a path that eventually took us to caves known as Los Boquerones, located in the parish Luis Cordero. They were formed many years ago due to the extraction of the mineral called quicksilver or mercury. The deposits were discovered around 1558.
61Azogues7-26-15GroupChurch copyGroup picture, in front of Iglesia de San Alfonso, before heading off to the caves
36Azogues7-26-15Climbing2Cave copy“Mountain Climbing”; all ages and sizes!
41Azogues7-26-15InCave copyInside the cave learning about the mining the minerals
42aAzogues7-26-15ClimbingOutCave copyThis is the way we exited the cave!!!
After our adventure in the caves we headed back up the hill to the plaza where we bought some delicious empanadas that were freshly fried and coated in sugar; just what was needed after “mountain climbing” and “spelunking”!  They were so good I ate a dozen!!!!
58Azogues7-26-15GettingEmpanadas copyJust what we needed after our climb in the caves
Soon we boarded the bus for the next stop, the salt flats, about fifteen minutes from where we were and at an altitude of 9,389 feet. The hike down wasn’t bad at all but this old body just didn’t like the steep hike out and I had to rest 3 or 4 times. We passed a house right next to the path down into the salt flats and on the way back they had a big pot of tamales for sale. They were fresh and hot right out of the pot and only $.50. What a treat after that strenuous hike up.
70Azogues7-26-15Going2SaltFlats copyHeading down to the salt flats
94Azogues7-26-15SaltFlats copyOn the salt flats
98Azogues7-26-15SaltFlatsSusanMariaRick copySusan, Maria and Rick climbing back up from the salt flats
103Azogues7-26-15TamaleEndSaltFlats copyFresh tamales, our reward for having made it back up!
Our last stop was Laguna de Chocar, a man made lake. At 9,250 feet elevation it is located three minutes from the parish Luis Cordero. There was a lot of food and games as well as time to just walk around the area and enjoy the panoramic views of the countryside. Due to the altitude, and the fact we were in the open, it was quite cold here. But it was still very enjoyable to see all the children and adults alike enjoying themselves.
113Azogues7-26-15LagunaDeChocar copyThe view from up here was spectacular
 126Azogues7-26-15LagunaDeChocarTugWar copyYoung and old playing tug-of-war


119Azogues7-26-15LagunaDeChocarRickSusan copyRick and Susan at the lake
Soon it was time to head home. Rick and I thought we would have to catch a bus back from the terminal but as it turned out, the bus we were on headed into Cuenca. It dropped us off not too far from Avenida Las Americas where we caught a bus home.
What a fun day, and I so enjoyed seeing the countryside and interacting with and watching the people on the tour enjoying themselves.

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